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Rookies lead the way

Jake Long was again impressive for Essendon VFL over the weekend.

Jake Long has continued his strong development this pre-season with an impressive performance for Essendon VFL over the weekend.

Long was one of the best on the day finishing with 21 disposals, four tackles and six marks.

The 20-year old’s constant pressure on the opposition, commitment to the contest and ability to find space was a highlight of an otherwise tough day for Essendon VFL.

Having worked with him closely this pre-season, Coach Matthew Egan continued his praise of Long believing that the hard work he has put in has really started to show on the field.

“He’s been building really well this pre-season Longy and I think the NAB Challenge gave him some real belief that he can improve and play at this level,” Egan said. 

“His intensity has been the thing that has got him up and about, so his ability to tackle hard and get to the next contest is really consistent now.

“What’s really important is that he is building really strongly and I’m really rapt for Longy who has been working really hard.”

Coaches and fans would have also taken great pleasure from seeing Irishman Conor McKenna’s performance against Footscray.

Having only played a handful of games at both an AFL and VFL level, McKenna looked at home on the field and showed signs of great things to come. 

The challenge was put to the small forward as the coaches pushed him on the ball for the first time in his career. 

McKenna did not disappoint gathering 19-disposals, laying two tackles, taking six marks and kicking a goal.

“We feel that Conor is ready for his next phase of learning and that’s to find that second position that all players need these days in modern footy,” Egan said. 

“He has played a lot of footy as a forward and proven that he can use the ball and be a pressure forward for us.

“He played on ball for us today which he hasn’t done before, and I thought that he coped really well.”

Fellow rookie Will Hams was also among the best, overcoming an illness during the week to still finish with 18-disposals, nine tackles and a goal. 

The always-reliable Hams was at his hard-working best, getting to the bottom of the pack and feeding the ball out to the outside players. 

“We were unsure whether he would even get through the game after being sick all week, so to get through the way that he did and show the class that he did was really impressive,” Egan said.

“For Hammsy, it’s been a really consistent period and he’ll be pushing his name up for selection.”

Long, McKenna and Hams are all currently on Essendon’s rookie list for the 2016 season and will all be looking to put their best foot forward for a spot in the senior side.