Essendon midfielder Andrew McGrath believes the Bombers are "maturing" as they strive for another pressure-based victory in their clash with North Melbourne at Metricon Stadium on Saturday night.
After a slow start against Collingwood on Friday night, Essendon produced an unrelenting performance to beat its arch-rival by 15 points at the MCG.
McGrath was pivotal in midfield, working alongside Dylan Shiel to amass a collective 48 disposals.
“It was a really mature effort to weather that (early) storm, start scoring and to be able to get the game back was a really pleasing sign,” McGrath told SEN 1116.
“A lot of people know us as the team who rebounds well off half-back, but in our win (over Collingwood) you didn’t see that too much – it was a win based off pressure and our contest work which is something we’ve been working really hard at as a group and if we can continue that, we will put ourselves in good stead for the rest of the season.”
The impressive 22-year-old said he was relishing his time in the Bombers’ midfield, having collected four votes in the AFL Coaches Association's AFL Champion Player Award for his performance against the Pies.
“It’s been really good (in the midfield). I guess I’ve been waiting a while for my opportunity to play and to finally be given the right to play the majority of my time in the middle, I have really enjoyed it and it does help when you’re winning games of footy,” McGrath said.
“I think when you’re in the centre bounces, there is a real responsibility on you to turn the tide of the game. When you’re a few goals down early, people start to naturally worry but as a group, we’re really big on focusing on what the next contest is and that next centre bounce is the most important thing, regardless of what the scoreboard says.
“Our pure focus is to win the ball there, send it forward and bring the game on our terms.”
Speaking to SEN Breakfast from the Gold Coast on Thursday morning, McGrath said the Bombers’ playing group was riding the wave of having to relocate from Melbourne to ensure the AFL season continues due to the coronavirus pandemic in Victoria.
“The first few days have been great. We’ve come up here with a great attitude and everyone is excited that we’re able to play football up here and keep the season alive,” he said.
“We’ve got a pretty young list, so everyone has been buzzing around and being here on the nice sunny Gold Coast hasn’t been too bad at all. We know there are a lot of unknowns, but we’re taking everything as it comes and embracing the opportunity. We’re looking forward to playing good, exciting footy together.”
The Bombers will tackle North Melbourne at Metricon Stadium on Saturday night in front of their first live crowd for 2020, and McGrath said his side was up for the challenge.
“We know (North) are good around the contest and we know they’re tough. The way they play their footy they try to hunt the ball and physically intimidate the opposition. That’s something we’re ready for, but it will start with our pressure.”