Bombers defender Michael Hurley is expecting a bruising encounter against North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium on Saturday.
Essendon and North Melbourne have each won four of their past five games, with the Bombers sitting out of the top eight on percentage and the Kangaroos just one win behind them.
Led by interim coach Rhyce Shaw, intensity at the contest has been the hallmark of the Roos' game in recent weeks.
“They (North) have been fierce. You see their guys like (Ben) Cunnington and (Jack) Ziebell and even some of their young forwards like (Cameron) Zurhaar being a bit of a bull,” Hurley told SEN 1116.
“We’re looking forward to what we know will be a physical contest. Hopefully we can match it with them in that space and have them chase us for a while.”
With a long history of fiery clashes between the two sides, the game will have extra meaning when the Bombers run out for charity partner Challenge, supporting children and their families living with cancer or a life-threatening blood disorder.
Following the 10-point victory over Sydney, the Bombers’ recent patch of form has pleased the dual All-Australian defender Hurley, who said the group was finding consistency.
“The last two weeks have been really pleasing. We know when we can get our game on our terms, when it is open and free flowing.
“To win in probably ugly fashion over the past fortnight has been nice and shows the development of the group.”
Highlighting fellow defensive cog Cale Hooker, Hurley joked that he didn’t want to see the utility in the forward line for too long following his impressive performances over the past fortnight.
“I love playing next to him (Hooker) so personally I don’t want to see him down there for too long.
“But in all honesty, it’s been really handy for us to throw him forward. Even against Sydney when he didn’t clunk as many, it’s just the presence he has and the contest that he creates.
“You look up the field and he’s just so commanding and you just want to kick the ball to him, so it’s huge for us that we can throw him forward when we need.”
Thank you, Mr Hooker pic.twitter.com/KyJ9RL1cBx— Essendon FC (@essendonfc) June 28, 2019
Hurley also praised the strength of the club to stay aligned despite perceived criticism of the side’s inconsistencies earlier this year.
“We’re really clear on what we want to achieve. Obviously in this industry there’s going to be speculation from the outside, but we can’t control that.
“You can see that in the last couple of years, we have been building. Last year, and I guess this year, we’ve started slowly which has been disappointing, but we have stayed level and calm and have had our real clear focus on what we want to achieve and how we’re going to go about it.
“Like anything, there’s been some ups and downs but what’s been impressive is our club’s ability to stay level, stay focused and continue to focus on what it looks like for us going forward."
The 29-year-old revealed a complete pre-season campaign was the key to arguably his most consistent season in the red and black to date.
“I’m actually feeling pretty good. I was lucky enough to get through a whole pre-season this year for the first time in four or five years so that has helped a hell of a lot," Hurley said.
“Physically, I’m feeling pretty good and mentally, we’ve found a bit of form which always makes heading into the footy club that little bit easier.
"I guess you can sort of feel the back half of the year is upon us and hopefully exciting times are ahead.”