Eagles premiership stars firing again - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Eagles premiership stars firing again

By John Salvado 19/08/2011 02:26:42 PM Comments (0)

With seven members of West Coast's powerhouse 2006 premiership team lining up on Saturday night, Essendon coach James Hird says it's no surprise the Eagles are flying again.

For Hird, the bigger shock is how they managed to slip all the way to the AFL wooden spoon last year.

With the likes of Dean Cox, Daniel Kerr, Andrew Embley and skipper Darren Glass winding back the clock in 2011, the Eagles can go a long way towards securing a top-four finish with victory over the Bombers at Patersons Stadium.

Essendon's cause hasn't been helped by the forced withdrawal of important key-position players Michael Hurley (foot) and Tayte (Pears (leg), although both are good chances to return next week against Port Adelaide.

Tom Bellchambers returns to give the Bombers a third ruck option against a West Coast team with a plethora of talented talls.

Hird rates the Eagles' ruck tandem of Cox and Nic Naitanui as the best in the league.

And an attacking set-up involving three key targets in Josh Kennedy, Quinten Lynch and Jack Darling - plus All-Australian mid-sized forward Mark LeCras - presents a huge challenge for any team, let alone one lacking the talents of Hurley and Pears.

At least evergreen Dustin Fletcher seems set to play for Essendon after being in some doubt.

"There's no doubt West Coast's really good older players are playing a lot better than they did last year," Hird said on Friday.

"Their defensive pressure in the forward half has been really well documented.

"It's elite and makes it very hard to get the ball out of their forward line.

"Their kicking skills have really improved - they must have done a lot of hard work over the summer.

"It's also taken a bit of pressure off their backline with a really good press and forward pressure.

"You combine that with the ruck outfit and the midfield they've got and they're a really challenging team to plan against."

With the bye in the final round of the home and away season following a round-23 clash against hapless Port Adelaide, seventh-placed Essendon can all but shore up a finals berth if they secure an upset win against the Eagles.

The Bombers have had a dreadful interstate record in recent seasons, although Hird was quick to note it had improved to 2-2 in his first year at the helm.

The Eagles' defence has been stiffened by the return of Glass and his 2006 flag-winning teammate Beau Waters.

Midfielder Patrick McGinnity is unavailable as he serves a one-week suspension for vilifying the mother of Melbourne's Ricky Petterd.

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