McVeigh talks up Essendon team spirit - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

McVeigh talks up Essendon team spirit

Roger Vaughan 14/03/2011 06:40:10 PM Comments (0)

The most important factor in Essendon's encouraging AFL pre-season has also been the most intangible - team spirit.

Bombers veteran Mark McVeigh said new coach James Hird has worked hard on morale and the club's off-field environment.

They pushed Collingwood before losing the pre-season grand final last Friday and much has been made of Essendon's better team defence and improved fitness.

But McVeigh noted the players were performing better because they were happier.

Asked how long it had been since things had felt this buoyant around the club going into a season, McVeigh admitted "probably three or four years".

McVeigh has been at Essendon since 1999 and has seen the very best and worst of times at Windy Hill.

After the Bombers won the 2000 premiership, they steadily declined until Kevin Sheedy was sacked in 2007.

Matthew Knights was the transitional coach and he led Essendon into one finals series, before last year's disastrous 14th placing and his dismissal.

Hird's lofty status at Essendon from his all-time great playing career gives him plenty of credit, but the new coach has been smart enough to know that will take him only so far.

"When `Knighter' first came in with his coaching group, we were really buoyant and we didn't win as many games as we'd hoped," McVeigh said on Monday.

"Matthew worked really, really hard to get us into positions to be able to win football games and it just didn't work out.

"Now James has come in, obviously he's played here and a legend of the club, players just look at him in a different light.

"A lot of young players are in awe of him, which I think helps, and of course Bomber (assistant Mark Thompson) - those two guys just complement each other really, really well."

Hird and his wife Tania hosted the players and the families for a barbecue last Saturday and McVeigh said those sorts of gestures were building a strong atmosphere around the club.

"That type of environment creates a really good bond among the players and the wives and girlfriends," said McVeigh.

"That's flowing into our training, we turn up to training ready to train and happy to be here, happy to play for our footy club."

While McVeigh is excited about the start of the season, he is unsure about being available for round one.

His wife Leanne is expecting their first child on Tuesday week.

If this baby Bomber decides on a late arrival and it clashes with their March 27 opener against the Western Bulldogs, McVeigh said family would come first.

"I won't be playing footy, I will be going to the birth of my first child, definitely," he said.

"(It's a) fairly slim chance, but it has happened before."

Key forward Scott Gumbleton could be in contention for a round-one promotion despite limited playing time during the NAB Cup.

Small forward Alwyn Davey also could make a quick return from his pre-season arm fracture.

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