Essendon greats to join fan march to MCG ahead of Round 1 to mark return of banned players
ESSENDON legend Kevin Sheedy predicts the Bombers’ Round 1 clash against Hawthorn will be “war”.
The Dons’ four-time premiership coach said the Hawks were gettable in a season-opening game marking Essendon’s “Comeback Story”.
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Essendon fans will gather en masse for a march from Birrarung Marr to the MCG next Saturday night, with club greats Paul Salmon, Dustin Fletcher, Terry Daniher and Sheedy among the red and black throng.
It is unclear whether James Hird will accept an invitation to attend the game.
More than 18,000 commemorative T-shirts, a Sheedy jacket wave and a new countdown tradition are also part of a pre-game package the club hopes will kickstart a new era.
media_cameraEssendon greats Dustin Fletcher, Kevin Sheedy and Terry Daniher will march to the MCG with Essendon fans ahead of Round 1. Picture: Wayne Ludbey
“It’s not love against Hawthorn, it’s war. They’re a fiercely competitive club and we’ve been at each other’s throats for the best part of 30 years,” Sheedy said.
“They’ve lost some very good players, cleared two champs (Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis) and another has been suspended (Luke Hodge). We’re not playing the Hawthorn of last year and we are definitely not the Essendon of last year.”
Sheedy, the Bombers’ general manager of innovation and strategy, said his club was intent on “marching forward” and said finals were achievable
“I always believe that you go to September every year,” he said.
“You don’t know the total outcome of the season, but you forge your way. John Worsfold, this is his real first year as coach, when you look at it. He’s probably had 27 practice matches last year.
“When you look back at some of the great battles we’ve had with Hawthorn, they came back from a terrible position 20 years ago when they were close to a merger and we’ve come out of a terrible five years after the supplements saga.
media_cameraThousands of Essendon fans marched to the MCG before the Bombers’ first game in Melbourne last year. Picture: Getty
“You can come back and we’ve got to put history behind us and start on that march right now with our fans.”
Fletcher, who retired at the end of 2015 after a club record 400 games, believed the nerves will hit him before the Hawks clash.
“I didn’t watch too many games last year. Obviously you love the club and still want to be part of it and you’re hoping they play well, so I might need a couple of beers to calm me down,” he said.
“You’re probably going to have that cautious feeling at this stage because of everything that’s happened, but I still think you’ve got to aim for finals.”
Fletcher said he had fallen back in love with the game.
“When I walked back into the club and I met ‘Woosha’ and all the people there, it was like footy had come back to me,” he said.
“It was the same feeling that I had in 1993. You’d love to put the boots back on and go again, but that’s well and truly done and now we barrack hard.”