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Experience pays off

Essendon’s AFL listed players had an important role in the VFL team’s victory over the Cats.

A mix of old and new players took to the field for the practice match on Saturday, with the Dons overcoming the Cats by 19-points. 

In what was at times a scrappy affair, VFL Coach Matthew Egan praised the efforts of the more senior players in the team who lead the way for what was an otherwise inexperienced Essendon VFL side. 

Particularly noticeable was the on field leadership demonstrated by veteran Courtenay Dempsey. 

Egan was quick to praise the defender, believing that he was able to lead through both his actions and his words. 

“Dempsey really showed something today,” said Egan

“His communication when he was on the field really helped guide our younger players and he definitely took a real step forward with his leadership.

“He also gave us plenty of run and provided us with the aggression that helped keep the pressure on the Cats.”

Dempsey played an important role in defence with his trademark big tackles and bumps on display.

He also exhibited great speed and control, running forward to kick a goal during the game.

Essendon’s rookie listed players were also among the best, with Will Hams and Jake Long  arguably among the best on the field for the day.

In what is a big tick for Hams, and his performance thus far in the pre-season, the young midfielder was awarded the Captaincy for the day. 

He did not disappoint those who put their faith in him, getting right to the bottom of the pack, laying big tackles and collecting a team high 26-possessions along the way.

Jake Long also displayed that he is feeling more at home in his position further up the ground, collecting 14 possessions and five marks for the afternoon. 

Coaches were more impressed, however, with the way that the rookie conducted himself on the field.

Long committed fully to the contest on every involvement and hassled the opposition enough to force several turnovers. 

His disposal efficiency and cool head under pressure were also noticeable.

“Longy played in a high half-forward role today and it was honestly an exciting game for him,” said Egan

“He has really come a long way this pre-season, as fans would have seen throughout the NAB Challenge. 

“For us, it’s reassuring to see him grow in confidence.”

Recruits Mason Redman, Alex Morgan and Aaron Francis were also notable on the field.

Morgan provided great run off the backline and worked his way into the game later on, while Francis was a pillar in defence taking strong marks and rebounding 50 on several occasions.

Given that he has missed the majority of the pre-season, Redman showed signs of the classy footballer he will be in time as well as an extremely mature attitude on field.