Zaharakis, Carlisle all set for Dons

Essendon coach James Hird will have the 2013 Anzac Day medallist in his side for the showpiece match this year but he isn’t quite sure how to stop last year’s winner.

David Zaharakis, who was best afield in 2013, has been cleared to play despite knee trouble.

But the 2012 and 2014 medallist Dane Swan looms large on Hird’s mind as he looks to steer the Bombers to just their second Anzac Day win in six years.

Hird watched Collingwood’s dominant round-three win over St Kilda with interest, concluding his side had a hard task on their hands.

“They were pretty comprehensive against St Kilda after quarter-time,” Hird said.

“Swan to me looked like he was back to his 2010, 2011 form.

“Both (Scott) Pendlebury and Swan have had pretty good days against us but we’re pretty determined that that won’t happen this week.”

It’s unlikely that either Pendlebury or Swan will line up at the first bounce with a tagger on their shoulder.

Swan’s 98 touches and five goals in the past three Anzac Day matches makes him a likely candidate though Hird said he’d wait and see how the game unfolds before clamping down.

“We may apply a tag to one of their midfielders and we’ll wait and see how the day progresses,” he said.

“We’re confident with our midfield we can control anyone.”

While there was doubts around the fitness of Zaharakis and Jake Carlisle (hip), the pair were guaranteed to line up by Hird on Friday.

“Unless (Zaharakis) gets sick overnight or falls out of his bed or something new he’ll definitely play,” he said.

“All players have something not 100 per cent about them but he’s OK to play.

“Jake’s ready to play … we’re very confident they’ll both play well.”

Collingwood has brought inside midfielder Taylor Adams into their side at the expense of the taller Patrick Karnezis, suggesting they expect a tough battle around the ball.

Courtenay Dempsey will return for the Bombers and play off half-back in the absence of Jason Ashby (dropped) and Adam Cooney (hamstring).

Hird hopes the inclusion of youngster Will Hams for his first match in almost two years can give his side a boost.

“Will’s had a tough 12 months with some personal issues and injury last year,” he said.

“He’s inspired us all with what he’s done over the last four or five months and his last three weeks in the VFL has been outstanding.”

Preparing to return to the biggest stage of the home and away season after 12 months out of the game, Hird said the atmosphere at the club was tremendous.

“The players are excited, supported are excited,” he said.

“It’s a great day for Australia.

“To be part of the game and part of the day is something we all hold very close to us.”

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