Essendon under Hird ready to improve - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Essendon under Hird ready to improve

By Guy Hand 24/03/2011 04:52:27 PM Comments (0)

Six months ago, James Hird stepped forward to salvage Essendon.

Just how far the Bombers have stepped forward under Hird's AFL coaching will be seen on Sunday as the Western Bulldogs offer a simple, but measurable yardstick of Essendon's progress.

The Bombers' last home-and-away match in 2010 was a 29-point loss to the Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium.

It was turnover-laden, uncompetitive and made even worse by the fact the Dogs were nowhere near on song.

The defeat started the shovelling of sand on to Matthew Knights' coaching grave and the ascent of golden boy Hird as potential saviour.

Under Hird, the Bombers marched impressively to the pre-season cup final.

Hird acknowledges round one against top-four regulars the Dogs is a far different test of his coaching acumen than he has faced so far.

But he admits how far the Bombers have come over a 20-week pre-season with an emphasis on the defence so often missing under Knights will be there for all to see on Sunday.

"They beat us quite convincingly here in round 22 last year. We've got a lot of improvement to do to win the game," Hird said.

"But there's no doubt we're out here to win and hopefully what we've done over the pre-season will give us the chance."

Hird has signed off on a round one debut for impressive draftee Dyson Heppell, while forward Stewart Crameri has been upgraded from the rookie list to play the Bulldogs.

Heppell, the Bombers' first round draft pick, has been exceptional in the pre-season across half-back.

Youngster Anthony Long has been put on the long-term injury list, allowing rookie Crameri - also impressive in the Bombers' pre-season campaign - to play.

Ruckman David Hille, who has spent most of the pre-season recovering from injury, is likely to be the Bombers' first substitute under the new rules introduced for this season.

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