Dyson Heppell says Essendon's focus is on defence. Picture: Michael Klein
Dyson Heppell says Essendon's focus is on defence. Picture: Michael Klein

Bombers to aim up in defence: Heppell

ESSENDON captain Dyson Heppell says "elite pressure" will form the backbone of the club's finals tilt this season.

After securing onball jet Dylan Shiel in the trade period, Essendon will enter the new season with one of the most improved midfield brigades and exciting forward lines in the league.

But Heppell said Essendon's defensive pressure, led by last year's best-and-fairest winner Devon Smith, had become the team's new "identity" under coach John Worsfold.

Essendon was the No.1 pressure team in the competition from Round 8 last season after making some key changes to its system following a shock loss to Carlton.

Heppell, 26, said the Bombers had to recapture that intensity in the clinches to secure their first finals win in 14 years this season.

"He (Smith) is the barometer of our elite pressure around the ball and that's our identity that we found last year," Heppell said.

"Just that immense pressure on the opposition.

Devon Smith brings down Lewis Jetta.
Devon Smith brings down Lewis Jetta.

"It's really exciting when you go through the type of names (on the list), and the main thing is just making it all click really, and just seeing how smoothly it can function.

"That is really exciting."

Heppell is slated to take on Geelong at GMHBA Stadium in Essendon's second JLT Series clash after managing a hamstring tendonitis problem over summer.

The Bombers are expecting to welcome back speedster Orazio Fantasia, ruckman Tom Bellchambers and strong-bodied onballer David Myers as they look to bounce back from a first-up loss to Carlton in the JLT Series.

Patrick Ambrose will replace injured full-back Cale Hooker.

Despite the injury niggle, and the surprising defeat to the Blues, Heppell said it had been a buoyant pre-season.

"I've had a really enjoyable pre-season, it's been a little bit interrupted from a personal point of view with some hammy tendonitis," he said.

"But I'm getting over that now and getting back on the park and feeling really good.

"In terms of the general culture and energy of the group which we've created, it has been amazing.

Essendon captain Dyson Heppell and new recruit Dylan Shiel. Picture: Jason Edwards
Essendon captain Dyson Heppell and new recruit Dylan Shiel. Picture: Jason Edwards

"You can really tell guys are really loving coming to the club, working hard and training hard."

Heppell said Shiel could add a missing ingredient to Essendon's top-four assault this year after making a flying start to his new life as a Bomber over pre-season.

But the skipper nominated some other younger teammates who could also help the team rise-up in 2019.

"I think that was a big key for us, getting Dyl, because he is was really the final piece," he said.

"And I think we've created a system where we are really flexible in the roles we can play.

"So we might see a few of us play across half-back, and some more experienced guys across half-back as well.

"But Kyle Langford could spend more time in the middle, he's a big body who can also push forward and take a good mark.

"Darcy Parish is going to another level.

"We've seen what Andy McGrath can do over this preseason and Dev (Smith) is going to continue to build."

News Corp Australia


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