Tayte Pears has been a standout so far this pre-season
Snapshot: Essendon says it hasn't made too many radical changes from last year's pre-season program, which many think contributed to the high amount of soft-tissue injuries it suffered throughout the year. But coach James Hird has suggested there will be a bigger focus on longer distance running and aerobic fitness, something the Bombers clearly were struggling with by the end of 2012. A group of 10 Bombers were sent to Colorado to trial the benefits of high-altitude training and they have been some of the standout performers so far in the club's summer campaign, including captain Jobe Watson.
Break: The Bombers started their Christmas break on December 22 and will return on January 7.
Draftee watch: Joe Daniher leads the group of Essendon draftees. But even though he has been training with the club for more than a year as a father-son prospect, Daniher is only able to be involved in 60-70 per cent of drills before being pulled out to manage his workload. Mature-aged Nick Kommer was training with the Bombers before the draft and is seen as a player who is ready to go next year, as is Dylan van Unen, a 22-year-old defender from Frankston. Jason Ashby, who was Essendon's second selection at the NAB AFL Draft, is settling in nicely as well.
Burning: The club has noted Tayte Pears' presence on the track as a big positive. Pears has endured an unlucky run with injuries in the past three seasons which has seen a dip in his confidence. Getting a full pre-season under his belt will be a significant step in getting back to the player the club hoped he would become.
Medical room: Scott Gumbleton's run with injury was hoped to be behind him and he had completed nearly all of the summer campaign until a hamstring strain early this month. It's expected to set him back from training until January, but expect a very cautious approach from the club.
What they say: "We have been in a fairly heavy running phase for a period of time and now we are in December we are really starting to ramp our footy [work] up. The guys are really embracing it and training to a pretty high level. We've done a lot of conditioning in getting them strong and getting them fit, now it's about getting them conditioned to football to lead into that January period. It's been slightly disjointed with guys being away [in Colorado] but we brought it together at the Gold Coast and they're a pretty driven group." Assistant coach Simon Goodwin on essendonfc.com.au
NAB Cup schedule:
Round one: v Collingwood and Western Bulldogs, Etihad Stadium, Friday, February 15
Round two: v Richmond, Wangaratta, Saturday, March 2
Round three: v GWS, Manuka Oval, Friday, March 8