Jobe Watson and Bombers kicking on - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Jobe Watson and Bombers kicking on

By Guy Hand 11/04/2011 04:12:07 PM Comments (0)

If Essendon skipper Jobe Watson had 33 touches in an AFL game before this season, chances are it would have been 24 handballs and nine kicks.

On Sunday, it was 24 kicks and nine handballs.

It tells you much about the changes in both Essendon's and Watson's games under James Hird's coaching.

Watson has long been a terrific midfielder - one of the competition's elite around the stoppages.

But there have been knocks. On his kicking. Especially on his disposal.

Like everyone at Windy Hill, Watson has been encouraged to kick more.

It's working for the 26-year-old and his club. Both have taken their games - and in Watson's case his leadership in his second year in the role - to a new level.

"He's come a long way. He's a great captain, great leader and also just a great person," midfielder Ben Howlett said.

"The last two seasons have shown he's a great player and he's even stepped up again."

Watson is also not only hitting targets with his kicks, he's booting goals.

Three in the 52-point weekend thumping of St Kilda, which franked the Bombers' finals credentials.

In eight previous seasons, Watson kicked just 44 goals.

He has six this season already, and probably just as many Brownlow Medal votes from his opening three matches.

Adding strings to Watson's bow involves more players doing the heavy lifting the skipper has done in poor Essendon sides in recent seasons.

Second-year player Howlett, midfielder Heath Hocking and forward Leroy Jetta are tackling the house down - another change under Hird.

Howlett admits the emphasis on defence is helping the team, especially in ensuring an even contribution.

"Obviously we're enjoying kicking the ball a lot more," Howlett said.

"All 22 players are putting in their bit.

"We've worked on the defensive side of our game. All our players are chipping in to do the one-percenters and it leads to attacking football."

So far this season the Bombers have beaten two of last season's top four by 50-plus points.

But Hird has marked Saturday's clash with Carlton as vital to confirm their growing stature.

"The reality is Essendon beat the Western Bulldogs and St Kilda pretty early on last year as well," Hird said.

"Unless we (perform against Carlton), we'll always be seen as a club who has really good highs and pretty big lows as well."

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