Essendon coach John Worsfold has stuck to his word and made five changes to his side to face Geelong in the Country Game on Saturday.
A young and exciting team has been named with two debutants, Dylan Clarke and Jordan Ridley, among the inclusions.
Clarke has been a ball-magnet in the VFL this year, leading the league for disposals (with 164 from five games) and hard-ball gets (33), while currently placing second for contested possessions (79) and third for tackles (43).
Worsfold said he was “rapt” to unleash the midfielder and said he would get plenty of opportunities through the middle of the MCG.
“Dylan’s form’s been outstanding, his attitude since he arrived at the footy club has set a real example for all the young players,” Worsfold said on Thursday.
“And the rewards are there for him because of the hard work he’s done and obviously because of his great form.
“He’ll definitely get a fair bit of time in the midfield and last year he spent a fair bit of time forward as well, so he’ll rotate through there.”
Ridley has also impressed this year as a classy intercept defender and Worsfold said he has been impressed with the 19-year-old’s form and persistence.
“Jordan we think is a highly talented player that’s going to be a really good player for the Essendon Football Club.
“He’s had a couple of serious injuries that have probably held him back so far, but his attitude to work through them both last year and then through the pre-season this year was first-rate.
“His attitude’s great, he’s got a lot of talent and he’s now in very good form, so he’s ready for his opportunity.”
Worsfold said while he is likely to spend most of his debut in defence, the club expects Ridley to play a variety of roles in the future.
“He’ll play mainly in the back half, but we think in the long term he’s going to be a very versatile player for us that can go up onto the wing and play forward for periods,” he said.
Fellow young gun Matt Guelfi has been recalled after two weeks out of the senior side. The West Australian was terrific in his first three matches before being rested for the side’s clash with Hawthorn in round seven.
Worsfold said he had been impressed by Guelfi’s start to his career and only brought him out of the side because he’d played the 20-year-old in three games in 11 days.
“Matt really hasn’t put a foot wrong, we know the games that he came in and played around ANZAC Day he was a really solid performer for us.
“We felt that was a big workload for him playing a lot of games in a short number of days, so he’s freshened up and had a game in the VFL and (is) ready for his next run at it.”
Kyle Langford has been rewarded for his strong form in the VFL for his third senior match of the season, while experienced defender Matt Dea will also take the field after proving he has overcome a leg injury.
Worsfold said Dea had only come out of the side due to injury and deserved a recall, while he was impressed by Langford’s consistency.
“Langers has been in good form all year and was in the side for a couple of weeks and has gone out, but he’s been knocking on the door for a number of weeks so he’s in good form (and) ready to go.”
Young on-baller Kobe Mutch has been rested for the battle against the Cats, while Michael Hurley will watch from the sidelines as he recovers from a hamstring strain.
David Myers joins him off the field after failing to fully recover from hip soreness following last week’s loss to Carlton.
Midfielder Darcy Parish and small defender Ben McNiece have been omitted from the side and Worsfold revealed the response he is seeking from the pair.
“(We want Darcy) to find a lot of the footy, work hard and really enjoy probably a bit more midfield time than he’s been able to generate in the senior team.
“Benny McNiece, his form’s been solid, we feel like Matty Dea gives us a bit more size in the back half this week.
“So (we want) Ben just to keep on playing really good footy and building both the attacking side of his game probably more so, but defending really hard.
B – Hooker, Ridley, Baguley
HB – Saad, Ambrose, Heppell
C – Goddard, Guelfi, McKenna
HF – Clarke, Stewart, McDonald-Tipungwuti
F – Langford, McKernan, Fantasia
R – Bellchambers, Zaharakis, Smith
I/C – Stringer, Laverde, Z. Merrett, Dea
Emergencies – Parish, J. Merrett, Long, McNiece
IN – Clarke, Ridley, Guelfi, Langford, Dea
OUT – Hurley, Parish, Mutch, Myers, McNiece