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Many happy returns

Callum Twomey afl.com.au  February 17, 2017 8:18 AM

BTV: John Worsfold Media Conference John Worsfold speaks to the media after JLT week 1.

Essendon Coach John Worsfold was pleased with the performance of the Bombers' batch of returning players as the Club launched its new-look 'mosquito fleet' forward line on Thursday night.

All eyes were on the six Bombers who were playing their first game since 2015.

Each of Dyson Heppell, Jobe Watson, Michael Hurley, Ben Howlett, Travis Colyer and David Myers had an impact at some stage of the contest, with all playing varying amounts of game-time in the Bombers' 11-point loss to Collingwood.

"I thought they were all good. I know they are all going to get better, but I'm really pleased," he said post-game.

"This was about game time, getting some volume into them and we had set targets for them pre-game. That was our main aim – it wasn't so much about trying different styles of play.

"It was just to have a good hit-out and play what we've been training but we weren't going to pull too many strategies."

Worsfold admitted there was a strange feeling within the Essendon rooms ahead of the contest, given the return of the players and a side that features so many new and returning faces.

"It was a little bit – I'll use Jobe's word – weird. It's only just a hit-out and the start of our JLT Community Series so we don't get too wound up about the game, but it was a different game," he said.

"How were we meant to feel? No one really knew. We talked briefly about it and were just rapt that once the ball's bounced we're back into it."

He wasn't worried about being overrun by the Pies in the final term – they turned around a 23-point deficit at the final change to claim the victory – and cited a lack of interchange options as a key reason behind the drop-off.

"We didn't have too many rotations really in that last quarter," he said.

"Hurley was done at half-time and Jobe [Watson], Dyson [Heppell] and Brendon Goddard just played out the first few minutes of the last quarter then sat out the rest and [Matthew] Leuenberger the same. We basically rested our whole midfield in that last quarter."

Over summer the Bombers have been trialling using three small forwards inside their attacking 50, and the early signs suggest they will have some new-found scoring power.

Orazio Fantasia was excellent against the Magpies with four goals, while former Brisbane Lion Josh Green kicked two and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti booted one. Colyer also kicked two majors in the second term, but was based mainly in the midfield.  

"I think we've got some really good options up there and I also thought that [Mitch] Brown, [James] Stewart and [Shaun] McKernan when they were forward were threats as well. They didn't get beaten too many times which brings our smaller players into action," Worsfold said.

Leading goalkicker Joe Daniher is a chance to play for Essendon in its next pre-season contest against Gold Coast next Sunday as he continues his return from a knee injury, but Cale Hooker (hamstring) is unlikely to feature until their final hit-out, which is against Geelong on March 12.