Their biggest stars won’t be in action but Essendon reckon they’ve got the perfect man to unleash for AFLX.
The Bombers are preparing for their first taste of the experimental format, which will feature a smaller ground and on-field lineups of seven players per team.
Joe Daniher, Zach Merrett and skipper Dyson Heppell will be rested next Friday night when the Bombers face Hawthorn and St Kilda as part of a six-team pool at Etihad Stadium.
Jake Stringer is also unlikely to play as he continues to build fitness towards a more midfield-oriented role.
But the Bombers believe they have enough options to thrive in the fast-paced format, with Devon Smith nominating fellow off-season recruit Adam Saad as a player to watch.
“I think Adam Saad’s the prototype for that,” Smith said.
“He’s very quick, breaks the lines, can kick goals and he’s almost impossible to tackle.
“And guys like Conor McKenna – who’s probably underrated in my books – it’ll be good to see them sort of guys floating around.”
Assistant coach Hayden Skipworth will take the reins from John Worsfold for the inaugural tournament, while veteran midfielder David Zaharakis will fill in as captain.
Smith is unsure whether he’ll definitely be part of the 14-man squad but the 176cm midfielder said the Bombers had been working up a sweat on the training track.
“Physically, it’s very hard,” he said.
“I don’t think there’ll be too many ruckmen running around but it’s good for smaller people like me.”