Watson wants stress-free round 24 - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Watson wants stress-free round 24

Roger Vaughan 12/08/2011 06:20:32 PM Comments (0)

Essendon captain Jobe Watson wants his team's round-24 AFL bye to be stress-free preparation for the finals, free of any uncertainty about their top-eight fate.

For now, the Bombers are in charge their season and Saturday night's clash against the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium will be crucial to those top-eight aspirations.

They returned to the eight last weekend with their last-gasp win over Sydney.

After the Bulldogs, they have the tough task of playing West Coast in Perth and then host Port Adelaide before the last-round bye.

"In the pre-season we had a look at the draw and thought if we're a good enough side it would be a great benefit to have the bye before the finals started," Watson said.

"But what we are fortunate about at the moment is that we have the opportunity to control our own destiny and that is something we're well aware of.

"We don't want to put ourselves in a situation where we're sitting by a TV on the last weekend wondering whether we're going to be there (in the finals) or not."

All season, the emphasis at Essendon has been on improvement under new coach James Hird.

But Watson admits the lure of playing in the finals is growing stronger.

"As a playing group, obviously, we want success and you can't be successful if you're not playing finals," he said.

"We're certainly under no illusions (about) what we need to do."

The Bombers regained key defender Tayte Pears for this match as their injury woes continue to ease.

Fellow backman Cale Hooker will also return to playing this week through the VFL.

Watson has enjoyed another strong season and is starting to have more support through the midfield, with Angus Monfries, Jake Melksham and David Zaharakis adding to their on-ball depth.

While the Bulldogs will be without Brownlow Medallist Adam Cooney, their midfield still boasts plenty of talent that will challenge the developing Bombers.

The Bulldogs are technically still in finals contention, but their more realistic potential this weekend will be to act as finals spoilers if they can beat Essendon.

Meanwhile, the Bombers have announced assistant coach Simon Goodwin will stay at the club.

Neil Craig's resignation from Adelaide prompted speculation that the Crows might try to lure their former captain back to the club in some sort of role.

"A senior coaching role might be something that I will look at further down the track, but at the moment I am happy with how everything is going at the Bombers," Goodwin told the club website.

"I am excited by the development of our club and our players and I want to try and help this group achieve their potential which will hopefully result in future success for Essendon."

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