WHERE AND WHEN
Norm Minns Oval, Wangaratta, Saturday, March 2, 5.10pm
Essendon: David Zaharakis (quad), Jake Melksham (hand) and Jason Winderlich (groin) seem to be the three main Bombers set to miss the clash.
Richmond: Nathan Foley (Achilles) will miss but the Tigers could welcome Jake King back after five off-season surgeries. Troy Chaplin, Sam Lonergan and Dylan Grimes are all a chance to face the Bombers but could be held to play against Hawthorn in the third week of the NAB Cup.
Essendon: After two weeks of intense media scrutiny, the Bombers opened the NAB Cup with a win against the Western Bulldogs before a tight loss to Collingwood. However, there were plenty of signs the team would be better in 2013 that in 2012. Tom Bellchambers looked good in the ruck, Brendon Goddard made an immediate impact at his new club, and Dustin Fletcher was as resolute as ever in defence.
Richmond: The Tigers kick-started their 2013 campaign with a 15-point win over Melbourne but then, in similar fashion to several games last year, lost a tight contest against North Melbourne by four points. Nevertheless, Richmond showed it has the firepower to match it with any side in the competition this season, and the forward partnership of Jack Riewoldt and Tyrone Vickery will be crucial to that.
WHAT THEY SAY
Essendon: "I am really looking forward to getting into the midfield this week and having a good run around. After missing last week against Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs it has made pre-season just a little bit longer for me, so I can’t wait to get out there. That match fitness is really important for us especially in terms of learning and playing to our game plan." - Essendon midfielder Ben Howlett
Richmond: "The team went really well, and we're looking to build from that and bring some good form into the season, and get some wins on the board. We didn't have our full 100 per cent team out there [on Friday night], but the way we went about it was good. Now we're looking to build on that." - Richmond midfielder Reece Conca
Essendon: Given Essendon's home and away season starts a week earlier than most clubs (against Adelaide at AAMI Stadium on March 22), the club will be keen to get its most competitive outfit together as quickly as possible. With a few important players returning for this clash, including Jobe Watson, Howlett and possible debutant Joe Daniher, the Bombers should field a strong line-up.
Richmond: Richmond coach Damien Hardwick admitted it would have been nice to beat the Kangaroos last week, but the Tigers will be better for the run and will have a more experience team against the Bombers. The Tigers' tenacity and ball movement is exciting and we'll get another glimpse into how the club's band of mature recruits will slot into the best 22.