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Hird feeling no nerves at Bomberland

Greg Buckle 12/01/2011 04:47:03 PM Comments (0)

Essendon playing great James Hird is feeling no nerves about his high-profile move to coach the Bombers this season.

Hird says after the Bombers finished 14th in the 2010 AFL season under Matthew Knights, the focus this season is simply on improvement.

But with almost 32,000 members already signed up for this year, expectations will be high that Hird and his coaching panel, including Geelong's two-time premiership-winning mentor Mark Thompson, can turn an average playing list into a team of world-beaters.

"(There's) no nerves," Hird told reporters at Essendon's skills session at Keilor Park on Wednesday.

"You've really got to focus on what you can change and what you can do.

"The season still seems so far away for us and myself, so we're just concentrating on training them up the best we can for NAB Cup, and then we'll see what happens after that.

"We are about improvement and we're not putting any limitations or any expectations on where we'll finish."

Sixteen players recorded personal-bests in beep-test running sessions completed on Monday.

"Already we've improved as a group in terms of our physical capabilities, now we'd like to see that in our football as well," Hird added.

The rookie coach said he was elated with the response of fans rushing to sign up for memberships for 2011 and he wasn't bothered by the hype that could bring as supporters seek a 17th flag.

"Hopefully they're demanding improvement and that's what we're all about," Hird said.

"The supporters have been great in the memberships they've bought so far and in the way they've embraced the membership campaign.

"The members seem pretty happy at the moment.

"It's about improvement and we'll see where we are midway through the year."

Hird said he wasn't bothered by the hype surrounding the coaching panel, that also includes Thompson's former assistant Brendan McCartney.

"No worry. It's just about improvement for the players and they're showing the signs already," he said.

After the messy exit of Thompson from Geelong with one year left on his contract, amid much criticism from Cats fans and others including Hawks president Jeff Kennett, Hird says things are back on an even keel.

"The footy department has settled down well but really it's about the players and how they play and how they perform, so that's the focus," Hird said.

"There's definitely a lot to learn.

"There's no doubt the game has moved on in the three years that I haven't been involved in it.

"I'm just trying to pick up on what's going on. With some pretty experienced coaches around, that adaption is a lot easier."

Essendon play the Brisbane Lions and St Kilda at Etihad Stadium on February 18 in round one of the pre-season NAB Cup.

The matches will be staged over 20-minute halves.

The Bombers open their AFL season with a home game against the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium on March 27.

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