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Essendon Bombers captain Dyson Heppell

AFL season preview: Essendon Bombers

The dark days of the ASADA and WADA supplements scandal is slowly starting to fade into the distance for the Essendon Bombers.

So much so, the club has emerged as a genuine threat to take out a record 17th VFL-AFL flag in 2018.

The Bombers only need to look over the fence at the recent success of the Western Bulldogs and Richmond Tigers to see that rapid development can lead to fast-tracked success.

Coach John Worsfold certainly has a roster capable of producing yet another AFL Cinderella story.

Jake Stringer had a rocky end to his career at the Bulldogs but brings plenty of talent and another big name to this roster. And several young talents from 2017 are set to lift another gear this time around.

There are questions around the midfield, which lacks genuine size, after the Essendon Bombers were rag-dolled by Sydney in last season's finals.

But they have pace to burn which has been bolstered by the addition of GWS's Devon Smith in the off-season.

Injuries to Orazio Fantasia and Martin Gleeson, as well as a tough start against Adelaide and then a tricky trip to Perth to play Fremantle will challenge them early.

But a reasonable draw, a strong roster and young players getting better every year have the Essendon Bombers ready to make a serious tilt at another premiership.

The key player for the Essendon Bombers

It is time for Dyson Heppell to step out of the shadow of the retired Jobe Watson's shadow once and for all.

Heppell had formerly deputised under the club champion, but was scrubbed out along with so many players in 2016.

He returned in 2017 as outright skipper, but admits that chalice dulled his own performances as a result.

Heppell believes that year assisted his growth and is ready to be both the player and leader the Bombers need.

Needs to lift

Andrew McGrath was a midfield jet in his first season of AFL in 2017 and will be looking to ramp that up again this season.

The opportunity to be a fulltime fixture in this side has been presented to McGrath, if he is up to the task.

For the Essendon Bombers to genuinely push for a premiership he will need to rise up, along with the other young guns that had breakthrough seasons in 2017.

The new recruit

You won't miss former Bulldog Stringer on debut, with his bleached blonde top bun. But his colourful antics don't just extend to his hairstyles and tattoos, Stringer is an eclectic talent on the field as well.

Boasting flamboyant kicks and goals on the run, huge sprints when in the clear and goal celebrations to remember - this is a recruit that should pay immediate dividends for the Bombers.

The x-factor

Fans couldn't get enough of Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti in 2017, with the dreadlocked goal sneak from the Tiwi Islands a standout performer.

And his freakish ability to score is only matched by his crunching hits. In fact, his effort in every minute of every match is breathtaking to behold.

This is a player who will always give 100 per cent to the Bombers and will appear on plenty of highlight reels throughout the season.

Ins: Matt Guelfi, Jordan Houlahan, Luke Lavender, Trent Mynott, Adam Saad, Devon Smith, Jake Stringer, Brandon Zerk-Thatcher

Outs: Craig Bird, Heath Hocking, Ben Howlett, James Kelly, Alex Morgan, Brent Stanton, Jobe Watson

Predicted finish: 3rd

About the Author Josh Alston

Josh Alston is a hack with over 12 years industry experience, covering sport across all codes for newspapers and online agencies. Known to frequent grade matches because of their cheap tinnies. Eventually graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism and a Masters in sitting on the hill when the local cricket side was playing. Softball premiership winner, rugby league legend in Year 10 and no stranger to Doomben Racecourse.

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