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Bombers just want to improve

Roger Vaughan 05/03/2011 04:11:06 PM Comments (0)

The buzzword at Essendon during this AFL pre-season is "improvement".

Coach James Hird mentioned it several times after Friday night's 39-point semi-final win over St Kilda, which puts the Bombers into their first pre-season grand final since 2000.

Essendon will play the winner of Saturday's Perth semi-final between West Coast and Collingwood next Friday night at Etihad Stadium.

While Saints coach Ross Lyon referred to Essendon's impressive win as a "top-four performance", the Bombers are under no illusions.

The absence of Ben McEvoy made it much easier for Essendon to dominate the ruck, plus the Bombers and the Saints are at different phases in their pre-season preparations.

"It's important that we play well, I'm not sure about winning as such," said Essendon veteran Mark McVeigh.

"All it is for us is improvement, every week, and we know the challenges ahead.

"We get the Western Bulldogs in round one and it will be a totally different game."

But there is also no doubt that the good start to the year is an important boost for Essendon, who finished 14th last year and have a new-look coaching staff.

It was a risk appointing Hird, who has had no coaching experience, and the Bombers needed some early wins.

"The last three years, it hasn't been a great winning ratio for our footy club," McVeigh said.

"I know it's NAB Cup, but certainly the winning ratio for us and the winning feeling for younger players, it's good for us and good for our club and our supporters."

Essendon's defence around the ground, their glaring weakness last year, has been a major focus in the pre-season and it showed against the Saints.

"At the moment, it's going well, but there's certainly times during the game that when we go away from that and try to play like we did last year, we get exposed," McVeigh said.

"It's a work in progress and it's improvement, that's what it's all about."

Three younger Bombers stood out against St Kilda - ruckman Tom Bellchambers, small forward Leroy Jetta for his first half and rookie forward Stewart Crameri.

While he is not yet eligible to play in the regular season, Crameri is making a strong case for a promotion should a senior berth become available.

"We need these players to keep coming up," McVeigh said.

"Those three players coming into our game style have really helped us and they're putting pressure on a lot of other players."

Meanwhile, the loss creates a heavy travel schedule for the Saints next weekend.

They will have to play Sydney in Coffs Harbour on Saturday night and then return to Melbourne in time for their club family day on Sunday.

"Which one are we going to cancel?," coach Ross Lyon joked.

"You reap what you sow, don't you? We had an opportunity tonight to not have to travel.

"Hopefully we'll work out the logistics.

"Our fans our really important, so we're happy to get to family day."

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