Guy McKenna expects his returning midfielders to take some time to adjust to the pace and intensity of tonight’s JLT Community Series opener against Collingwood.
The Bombers named seven returning players (six of whom are midfielders) in the 29-man squad for the match.
McKenna said rule changes implemented during the absence of the returning players and the normal physical demands of an AFL match will take some time to get used to.
“Some of the rules they haven’t had long to adjust to and some others they haven’t been privy to,” McKenna said.
“That will take a bit of adjusting, but one thing I can tell you is in the first three minutes they’ll blow up like cane toads.
“They’ll feel like they haven’t done a pre-season.
“It’s going to be tough for them but it’s just really exciting to get together and the chemistry that we’re going to embark on over the next three weeks is going to be an exciting journey.”
Essendon and Collingwood will have eight players on the bench during tonight’s match, with unlimited rotations.
McKenna expects about ten players to rotate through the midfield, with three or four of those players on the bench at any one time.
The game against the Magpies will provide the first opportunity for the returning players to run out alongside some of 2016’s shining lights including Darcy Parish, James Kelly, Matt Dea and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti.
Young players Orazio Fantasia and Zach Merrett have also benefitted from the extra responsibility last year.
McKenna said the young players who featured regularly throughout 2016 have continued their progress during the summer.
“The great thing is those guys who have spent a bit of time and maybe played some games they shouldn’t have … they’ve stepped up and gone up another level,” McKenna said.
“That has been really encouraging.
“Now it’s a great opportunity to test their wares, they’re certainly up for it.”