Captain Dyson Heppell says fans should expect a more vicious Essendon outfit in round one as the side looks to recapture its ‘identity’ from the second half of the 2018 season.
The Bombers suffered losses in both of their JLT Community Series matches, first falling short of Carlton by nine points before a 28-point defeat at the hands of Geelong last Thursday.
But Heppell said the team is more than capable of returning to its aggressive best against Greater Western Sydney on March 24.
“Coming off the back of last year our real identity was our heat, our pressure and intensity around the ball, we really found that in the back half of the year,” Heppell said on SEN on Tuesday.
“In those first couple of (pre-season) games we really didn’t bring that to the table.
“We know we can do it and we know how damaging it can be when we bring it, so it’s just a matter of everyone buying into that and putting it on the park.”
The skipper identified team defence as another key focal point for improvement heading into the home and away season.
New assistant coach Ben Rutten has been the driving force behind the fresh defensive tactics throughout the pre-season and Heppell admitted mastering the system will require some patience.
“The other element is our team defence overall, which is an area that we had a look at last year, and really just building that chemistry with the group we’ve got and really buying into that system as well,” he said.
“(Those are a) couple of things that we’ve recognised and that’s not just going to click and be absolutely on song for round one – that will be improving as the year goes.
“Hopefully we can get ourselves in order for round one to be able to compete at our best.
“We’ve improved a hell of a lot since it was implemented early days in the pre-season. Honestly, it’s not too different to what we were doing, just a couple of tweaks.
“That will take time to learn and really sink in to the group.”
The classy midfielder said it is time for the exciting squad to embrace public expectation having finished last year strongly with 10 wins from the final 14 games of the season.
“I think everyone gets that sense of where we are at as a group, it’s something that you don’t really need to drive in.
“It’s more about embracing the expectation from the outside. We’ve got a massive supporter base that is unbelievable and really excited about what we can achieve.
“We can’t hide behind that, we can’t push that away. It’s really (about) embracing that, get excited about where we’re at as a list and as a club and the direction we’re heading, and see what we can put forward.”
You can listen to Heppell’s full interview in the video above or via the audio below.