Essendon Performance Coach Mark Harvey says the nerves among the returning players were clear to see in the moments leading up to the match against Collingwood.
Dyson Heppell, Jobe Watson, Michael Hurley, Travis Colyer, Ben Howlett and David Myers returned to the side for the first time since 2015, alongside three players (Andrew McGrath, Josh Green and James Stewart) who made their first appearance for the Club.
“They [the returning players] were nervous and anxious, it was like they were playing their first game,” Harvey told SEN.
“All of these guys are really hungry, all they want after what they’ve been through is success.
“That will be the objective moving forward.”
Each returning player made a contribution. Watson (19 disposals, four tackles) and Heppell (17 disposals, two tackles) were productive in their three quarters.
Howlett (eight disposals, two tackles and a goal) and Myers (eight possessions) also played three quarters.
Hurley (seven disposals), only played the first half, but kept Collingwood’s Jesse White goalless in that time.
While Colyer (nine disposals, two marks, two tackles, two goals) was part of a dangerous small forward quartet that also involved Josh Green, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti and Orazio Fantasia.
Harvey said the potency in attack was one of many positives to come from the game.
“They’ve [the small forwards] been in really good form over the pre-season and the way they’re evolving they’re going to be dangerous, [especially] when we get [Joe] Daniher and [Cale] Hooker down there as well,” he said.
“To see our midfield operate with [Matthew] Leuenberger, Jobe [Watson], [Dyson] Heppell and [Brendon] Goddard.
“In defence to see [Andrew] McGrath play his first game, albeit a JLT game, I thought his composure was very good back there.
“There are some good signs from our younger players and also our players that have come back.
“It’s an interesting game – you have eight on the bench and we left four or five players out in the last quarter, so there are some pleasing signs there and as John [Worsfold] said, we didn’t play any of our strategies last night.”