Essendon will give fans the best glimpse yet of generation next by fielding their youngest AFL team in recent memory against Melbourne on Saturday.
Coach James Hird will throw the 2015 edition of the `Baby Bombers’ into action on the MCG, though not entirely by design.
After a bruising month and five straight losses, the Bombers’ injury list has claimed a sizeable chunk of the club’s most experienced.
Joining captain Jobe Watson, Paul Chapman and Dustin Fletcher on the sidelines is Jake Melksham, after suffering a mid-week hamstring strain.
Heath Hocking’s hopes of playing a first match in 2015 were dashed too, while Adam Cooney (hamstring) and Jason Winderlich (shin) unavailable.
From the Dons’ 110-point shellacking to St Kilda last week, Courtney Dempsey and Elliot Kavanagh have been axed on form.
It all means the Bombers will field an incredible 12 players with less than 40 games experience, just a fortnight after Hird said “history will tell you that if you play seven players or more under 50 games then your chances of winning are very low”.
The youngest of the lot is Jayden Laverde, who will play his first AFL match at the MCG.
Seen once as a top-10 draft prospect, the tall midfielder was snaffled by the Bombers at pick 20 in last year’s draft.
The Essendon fan said he couldn’t wait to play – even if hail and wind was forecast.
“It’s really what I’ve played footy for, for this day coming,” he said.
“I can’t tell you how it’s going to feel but I imagine it’s going to be the best feeling of my life, running out as an Essendon supporter and finally getting to put on your jumper.”
Laverde said there had been a huge focus at the club on moving past last week’s 110-point loss to St Kilda.
“It’s a younger side this week and we’ve been through how we’re going to amend it from last week,” he said.
“We want to give immense effort and do what we can to win back the respect.
“We’re very keen to make amends … everyone’s raring to go.”
Despite their profile as a developing club, Melbourne will field just eight with less than 40 games experience, including first-gamer James Harmes.
He is one of four inclusions, with Heritier Lumumba and young guns Aaron Vandenberg Jay Kennedy-Harris returning for the ommitted Jimmy Toumpas, Rohan Bail, Jake Spencer and Matt Jones.
BABY BOMBERS: 2015 EDITION
Essendon’s side to play Melbourne has 12 players with less than 40 games experience.
Jayden Laverde, 19, 0 games
Ariel Steinberg, 22, 4 games
Nick O’Brien, 22, 7 games
Alex Browne, 22, 8 games
Jason Ashby, 21, 8 games
Shaun Edwards, 21, 14 games
Martin Gleeson, 20, 22 games
Patrick Ambrose, 23, 27 games
Zac Merrett, 19, 33 games
Jackson Merrett, 22, 34 games
Shaun McKernan, 24, 37 games
Joe Daniher, 21, 39 games