Essendon are embracing the hype around this year’s big Dreamtime at the ‘G clash against Richmond and will attack the match as if it’s a grand final.
The annual clash is one of the biggest fixtures on the AFL calendar, but there is an added layer of significance for the Bombers this year given their onfield struggles following the loss of players to anti-doping bans.
“We’ve got to look at it as if we make it a grand final … there’s a lot that teams go through that week,” Bombers defender Courtenay Dempsey said on Friday.
“The preparation has been good in the sense that we’re trying to keep it as simple as we can … but we’ve also got to take into account that there’s other stuff going on.
“But they’re the sort of games we want to be in. That’s what happens in finals, you get that sort of preparation going into games, so we have to get used to that.
“We’re not looking for a grand final this year … we’re looking for consistency over four quarters.
“That’s still coming along with such a young team and with the situation that we’re in.”
Dempsey was part of a presentation made to the players this week on the issues still faced by indigenous Australians and he remains proud of the club’s involvement in the showpiece fixture highlighting indigenous culture.
He overcame hamstring soreness to play and comes into the side with Shaun Edwards and Ryan Crowley.
The 17th-placed Bombers are on a seven-game losing streak but Dempsey says the side has drawn confidence from their past two performances.
“The first half of the North Melbourne game it looked like we were going to get flogged by 200 points but we turned it around, so it’s all about mindset going into the game,” he said.
“We’ve come out after halftime against North and nearly knocked them off. We’ve got the confidence that we can play those sort of games … it’s just a matter of putting four quarters together.”
The Tigers brought in David Astbury, Daniel Rioli and Corey Ellis as they look to continue to build momentum after winning their past two matches following their 1-6 start to the season.
“He’s excited,” Tigers midfielder Shane Edwards said of the inclusion of Rioli for his first Dreamtime match.
“He’s a quiet kid so you can’t really tell but you just know – even for someone as quick as him he’s buzzing around the track so he’s pretty excited.”