Finally it's back to the game

Written By Unknown on Sabtu, 16 Februari 2013 | 14.43

Essendon star Brendon Goddard celebrates after kicking his first goal for the Bombers. Picture: Wayne Ludbey Source: Herald Sun

THE theme of this year's NAB Cup is "Where It All Begins''.

But the off-season controversies made Friday night's first official skirmish of 2013 more a case of "Where We Can All Get Some Welcome Relief'' and lose ourselves in footy for a couple of hours.

Essendon fans might be none the wiser after hours of watching and reading and listening about their summer scandal, but will feel they gained a few clues about their team after seeing them on Etihad Stadium for two 40-minute spells.

There were some insights for Collingwood and Bulldogs fans, too.

So here are a few things we learned when the football finally began:

Essendon could well have one of the most potent forward lines in the league, with Tom Bellchambers and David Hille alternating between ruck and the deep forward post, and Paddy Ryder, Michael Hurley and Stewart Crameri the marking targets who are dangerous pushing up the field.

Gun recruit Brendon Goddard started in the centre square before drifting behind play, marshalling play across half back.

Developing Collingwood ruckman Jarrod Witts is holding his own against young Bulldog Tom Campbell. Picture: Salpigtidis George Source: Herald Sun

But he also crept forward, where his sure hands and penetrating kick posed a threat. The Dons' best young player, Dyson Heppell, looks ready to spend more time influencing play as an atacking midfielder. lw0

While its best old player, Dustin Fletcher -- the man whose lanky body shape has barely changed in 21 years of senior football -- looks like he can again control play in the back half.

Collingwood often seemed to lack urgency on the night, but managed to come away with two wins.

The second of those came when Travis Cloke goaled after being awarded a controversial free kick in the dying seconds, followed by Dons rookie Luke Davis failing to snatch back victory with a post-siren shot from 55 metres.

There were enough encouraging signs to suggest the Pies have found ways to improve a team that has had four consecutive top-four finishes.

Essendon recruit Nick Kommer is mobbed by teammates after kicking a goal just before the final siren. Picture: George Salpigtidis Source: Herald Sun

Siilky wingman Clinton Young again showed he is the sort of player who can create havoc in a team of quality midfielders.

Jarrod Witts adds depth to the Pies ruck stocks. Brent Macaffer and Jamie Elliott will put pressure on the likes of Alan Didak, Steele Sidebottom and Alex Fasolo. Inside midfielder Kyle Martin made an impressive debut.

Quinten Lynch looks capable of playing the role for which he was recruited, and Jordan Russell can be a handy utility with underestimated pace.

Earlier the Bulldogs showed that they unquestionably have grit, character and a willingness to work. But doubts will again remain about whether there is enough class to lift them from the ranks of the also-rans.

Robert Murphy was returned to a forward role with success, while Nick Lower looks to be another prolific ball-winner who will catch the eye of SuperCoach fanatics. Strong-bodied Jack Redpath showed glimpses on debut, and Jason Johanissen looks a likely type.

But for the Dogs to climb up the ladder, they need more from the likes of Ayce Cordy and Jarrad Grant.


ESS - Goddard, Carlisle, Fletcher, Heppell, Lovett-Murray.
WB - Lower, Cooney, Boyd, Murphy, Johannisen.

COLL - Swan, Young, Martin, Blair, Cloke, Shaw.
WB - Griffin, Giansiracusa, Liberatore, Jong.

COLL - Beams, Pendlebury, Russell, Cloke, Johnson.
ESS - Heppell, Goddard, Jetta, Baguley, Dempsey.

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