The wait is over.
After a long pre-season, Essendon’s 2023 AFLW campaign will kick off against Hawthorn on Saturday night, marking the second chapter in a brewing rivalry.
The Bombers claimed a famous 26-point win in the mirroring round one fixture at Marvel Stadium last season, with the inaugural AFLW outing for both clubs reeling in a crowd of more than 12,000.
While their line-up from last season will maintain its similarities come Saturday, an exciting crop of fresh recruits will be looking to further strengthen the Bombers around the ground in 2023.
Securing the services of former Tiger Kodi Jacques has added flexibility to the midfield, with the combination of new defenders Brooke Brown and Brooke Walker creating extra stability at the back.
The Bombers have also bolstered their tall stocks over the break, with the versatility of ruck Leah Cutting and forward Georgia Clarke set to play a factor in the club’s second season.
Another fresh face to look out for will be WAFL prospect Matilda Dyke, who joins the list as a replacement player due to veteran Cat Phillips sitting out the season expecting her first child.
Former VFLW captain Georgia Nanscawen is also raring to go at the highest level for the Bombers, recovering from the ACL injury that saw her sidelined for season 2022.
A busy off-season also saw the Bombers add depth to their coaching stocks, bringing in Peta Searle and VFLW Senior Coach Travis Cloke as assistant coaches, with the club’s VFL manager Bernard Shepheard also on board as a development coach.
Assistants Natasha Hardy and Gavin Urquhart will both return for their second season as a group under Senior Coach Natalie Wood.
Fronting the media ahead of the clash with the Hawks, Wood said the opportunity for the squad to gel over a longer pre-season will hold them in better stead as they develop into a second season.
“(A longer pre-season) is more enjoyable in that you’ve got a greater period of time to get to know the players, (rather than) trying to fast-track relationship buiding. It’s allowed us to be a bit more strategic in terms of what we need to work on,” Wood said.
“There’s nothing like going against a fellow expansion team. The contest this weekend is going to be as fierce (as round one last season), and both teams will have more system to what we’re doing as well.”
The Bombers and Hawks will meet at Kinetic Stadium in Frankston this Saturday, September 2 at 7:15pm AEST, broadcasted by Channel 7 and FOX Footy.
You can join the Bombers’ journey in 2023 with our AFLW membership options available here.