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McGrath to release shackles

Pre-season | McGrath on Sportsday Andrew McGrath joined Gerard Healy and Dwayne Russell on 3AW's Sportsday on Monday, February 11.
I was drafted as a midfielder and to finally be given the right of way to play in that position and try to attack the game from there is really exciting.
Andrew McGrath

Exciting young Bomber Andrew McGrath says he can’t wait to be unleashed in the midfield in 2019.

McGrath has spent the majority of his time at The Hangar sweeping across the backline, but brief stints on the ball in 2018 showed the speedster is well and truly capable of making the midfield his own.

The opportunities through the middle last year gave the 20-year-old a good insight into what is required to be an elite midfielder at the top level, but he said his time in defence has also proved important for his development.

“I was drafted as a midfielder and to finally be given the right of way to play in that position and try to attack the game from there is really exciting,” McGrath said on Sportsday Radio on Monday evening.

“I really enjoyed my time down back and learnt a lot about the game and what it takes to make it at AFL level.

“But now I think I’m ready to really start to impact games, play the way I played in the under-18s and hopefully try to replicate that a little bit this year.”

The 2017 NAB AFL Rising Star winner has been among the standout performers on the track in the pre-season, drawing praise from boom recruit Dylan Shiel and impressing with his athleticism, awareness and composure in recent match simulations.

With training progressively ramping up, McGrath said the squad is raring to get stuck into the quickly-approaching season.

“It’s a great time of year for us, we’re wrapping up the pre-season, months of hard work are finally coming to an end as we can see games on the horizon.

“I’m really excited to play with some new players and play with this group of players that we know we can achieve something special with.”


He praised the early efforts of senior recruits Dylan Shiel and Zac Clarke and said the Bombers’ relatively young list still has significant scope to improve.

“(GM of List and Recruiting Adrian Dodoro) has brought in some quality players, obviously Dylan Shiel is the main one, he’s been amazing for our club both on and off the field,” McGrath said.

“Zac Clarke has been a great addition as well, they’re both bringing heaps to the footy club.

“There’s been heaps of development from the younger players as well, as our group is very young still, we have a lot of growth in that space as well and it’s going to be exciting to see how we put it all together.”

McGrath will be one of four Bombers taking part in the AFLX Tournament, joining Patrick Dangerfield’s Team Bolts for the upcoming event on Friday, February 22.

Shiel (Team Rampage), Michael Hurley (Team Flyers) and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (Team Deadly) round out the club’s AFLX participants, and McGrath said the tournament would provide the quartet a chance to get some competitive game time under their belts.

“I was happy to get involved, I haven’t really missed a beat in the pre-season so far, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to play against some of the better players in the league and to play some competitive footy at this time of year.

“We’re itching to play against other opposition and I guess this is a good opportunity to do that in a fun and hopefully really enjoyable environment.”

McGrath suggested Essendon will field strong teams during the JLT Community Series, with each team only taking part in two games during the pre-season competition.

The series will kick off with the Bombers’ clash against traditional rival Carlton at Ikon Park on Thursday, February 28, before the side takes on Geelong the following Thursday at GMHBA Stadium.

The promising Don hopes to take part in both matches but said the club’s attention is yet to turn to the tournament, instead working towards tightening the screws on the team’s universal defensive tactics.

“We haven’t really spoken (about the JLT series) to be completely honest, we’re focusing on our match simulation at the moment and after our four-day break this weekend we’ll come back and assess JLT.

“Our (focus) is mainly around our team defence, we’ve got a new coach (Ben) ’Truck’ Rutten in from Richmond and he has simplified and made our team defence a lot easier to understand.

“I guess we had a few too many moving parts last season and we just tried to really simplify it and make a system that should work most times and be a lot more consistent, so we hopefully won’t get scored on as easily.”