THERE was plenty of black and red at the QEO on Thursday morning as Essendon continued its preparations for the 2020 AFL season with an open training session in humid conditions.
Players sweated it out for more than two hours in front of a big contingent of fans, with the training run followed by an autograph session as young Bombers' supporters got the chance to get up close to their heroes.
"It's nice and warm up here... we came off some time in Coffs Harbour a couple of weeks ago, so the boys should be pretty used to the heat," Essendon assistant coach Dan Jordan said.
"We got up here early this morning and there were already a heap of Bomber fans out, which was good.
"The boys have a break this weekend so we wanted to get a nice session in. The boys were working pretty hard out there, and particularly with the heat they will get a bit of extra load in.
"With training done the boys will freshen up and get around the community and spend another 24 hours here interacting, which has been fantastic for us so far."
Among the Essendon squad training on the QEO was former Bendigo Pioneer Kobe Mutch.
Following a injury-interrupted first three years at Essendon after his selection by the Bombers with pick 42 in the 2016 AFL Draft, Mutch is striving to make 2020 his breakthrough year.
"Kobe is going really well. He won our time-trial a month or so ago and is now coming into his fourth year in the program, which is sort of make-or-break for him," Jordan said.
"Through a few injuries and a couple of head knocks he probably hasn't quite broken through into that senior side.
"But he's putting together a really strong pre-season and will certainly be a contender this year."
Also returning to a ground he knows well on Thursday was Bendigo's Jake Stringer, who is gearing up for his third season at Essendon following five with the Western Bulldogs, where he is a premiership player.
"Jake is going along alright. He's had a pretty strong pre-season and I think he's only missed half of one session, so he seems to be in a really good spot in terms of his fitness and being able to run and cover the ground," Jordan said.
"We're really looking forward to him getting into the matchplay phase now and seeing what he can bring to the table at full fitness."
Stringer has been Essendon's leading goalkicker the past two seasons with 34 last year and 30 in 2018.
Jordan has this year taken on the forward line coaching duties at the Bombers.
"I'm not sure that I'll get Jake for all the time; he's a very good midfield, clearance player, so whether we use him in that role... he'll certainly spend some minutes forward and, hopefully, we might be be able to get some match-ups where he can win a few one-on-ones for us," Jordan said.
Meanwhile, it was a special training session for young Bombers' fan Oakley West, who not only got to be one of the water boys, but also meet his favourite player, Stringer.
Essendon will be in Bendigo again on Friday.
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