Essendon's Hird ready for battle - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Essendon's Hird ready for battle

Guy Hand 26/01/2011 05:59:07 PM Comments (0)

After spearheading the most controversial AFL coaching reshuffle in years, Essendon's James Hird now can't wait to test himself in match-day battle.

With the pre-season competition kicking off next month, Hird's untidy ascent to the Bombers top job and the equally messy capture of former Geelong coach Mark Thompson as his assistant will be put to one side.

Now the Bombers have got their men, the big question is how rookie coach Hird will perform on match-day.

The 37-year-old can't wait to find out himself, admitting much will be discovered when he leads his team into NAB Cup battle on February 18.

"There are obviously challenges in managing a large group of people, but the real heat is yet to come," Hird said of AFL coaching.

"From a coaching point of view, I'd like to get into the games as soon as possible and see what's out there and what it's really like."

Essendon have grand finalists St Kilda and Brisbane in their pool for the revamped competition, which features mini-matches against their opponents across a three-hour window.

Hird is set to use two of the club's three key injury concerns during the pre-season tournament - ruckman David Hille and forward Scott Gumbleton.

Hille's presence will depend on how well he shakes knee and calf soreness, but Gumbleton is back in full training and looks a certain NAB Cup starter.

Injured defender Tayte Pears - on the comeback trail after pancreas surgery which sidelined him in July last year as well a foot injury - is on track for a return in the early rounds of the home-and-away season.

"We need to be very slow with him and make sure he comes back to training and we don't re-injure him," Hird said of Pears.

"We're very confident in the first few rounds he'll be up and going.

"Tayte hasn't run since he was injured in July, so it's been a long time.

"We'd rather make sure we had a really good player for the last three-quarters of the year than rush him back for round one."

Hird has also earmarked plenty of experimentation during the NAB Cup, with the club set to play all their fit players in the first two matches.

The Bombers spent Australia Day taking part in a charity cricket match at their Windy Hill base, beating the Victorian Bushrangers in a 10-over match.

Midfielder Jason Winderlich top-scored for the match with 40, including several sixes.

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