MELBOURNE - Caretaker Mark 'Bomber' Thompson warns Essendon remain a work in progress this season and has admitted to self-doubt in his return to AFL senior coaching.
While James Hird is bullish about the Bombers' chances this year, Thompson said the players must learn how to look after themselves better during matches without his immediate guidance.
It is already another season of uncertainty for the Bombers, with the club still under ASADA investigation for their 2012 supplements program.
There is no word on when ASADA will decide whether they issue infraction notices.
Hird is serving a 12-month AFL suspension stemming from the supplements scandal and Thompson has taken over in his absence.
Even though Thompson coached Geelong to the 2007 and `09 premierships, he is unsure about how he will perform.
Essendon open their season on Friday night against fierce rivals North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium.
"I (am) a little bit nervous, but excited as well," he said.
"You just don't know how you're going to handle it - you know you've done it before.
"But every time it confronts you, you just say `I wonder if I've still got it?'
"Then you find out, I suppose."
Friday night also marks the 379th senior game for Dustin Fletcher, meaning he breaks Simon Madden's club record.
Fletcher is fourth on the AFL games list, only five behind St Kilda great Robert Harvey, and is entering his 22nd senior season.
Thompson was on the way to becoming an Essendon premiership captain in 1993 when Fletcher made his AFL debut.
"He walked in with a pair of shorts, a school bag and a school tie," Thompson said.
"He was 17, so skinny and pasty - it's incredible," he said about Fletcher. - AAP