There were encouraging signs for Essendon forward Jason Winderlich on Good Friday
ESSENDON midfielder Jason Winderlich has starred with three goals in just a half of football in the club's VFL practice match against Sandringham at the Bombers' new High Performance Centre near Melbourne Airport on Friday.
Playing his first game of the year, Winderlich showed little sign of the groin injury that prevented him from featuring in the NAB Cup, exhibiting his typical zip and line-breaking ability in Essendon's thumping win.
Bombers VFL coach Hayden Skipworth said the club would be keen to increase Winderlich's playing time over the coming weeks.
"He's a classy player and he showed he was a level above the VFL (today). It was just good to see him run around and get through without an injury and hopefully we can progress his game time next week," Skipworth told AFL.com.au
Can the Bombers put off-field controversy to one side? Read our season preview
With Essendon's injury list the lowest it has been in a number of years, 22-AFL listed players turned out for the Bombers and there were a few well-known names who featured prominently.
In particular, key defender Tayte Pears, who played a commanding role from half-back, killing the contest when necessary and generating important link up run from the back half.
The Bombers decided to go with the in-form Jake Carlisle and Cale Hooker as the talls in defence against Adelaide last week, but Skipworth said Pears is on the edge of senior selection.
"He's been in great form. He's had a great pre-season, it's just been one of those things he's been a bit unlucky not to be in the side, but someone's got to miss, and unfortunately it's him," Skipworth said.
"But he's certainly putting his name up for selection at the moment."
Twin towers Joe Daniher and Scott Gumbleton also had their moments and managed a couple of goals between them.
Gumbleton caused plenty of match-up problems for the Zebras and looked dangerous in the air, while small forward Cory Dell'Olio also kicked three majors.
"Everyone knows he's (Gumbleton) talented and he's going to be a star, but hopefully he gets a good run with his body and hopefully the worst is behind him, in regard to his injuries," Skipworth said.
St Kilda veterans Justin Koschitzke and Adam Schneider drifted in and out of the game.
Koschitzke split the points with Bombers counterpart David Hille, while Schneider's football smarts and clean disposal were noticeable.
St Kilda's only rookie-listed player to play in the seniors for the Saints last year – Sam Dunnell – also won plenty of the footy in a makeshift half-back role.
The VFL season starts on Saturday with a game between Port Melbourne and the Werribee Tigers, who are affiliated with North Melbourne, followed by a clash between last year's VFL premier Geelong and Williamstown in Torquay on Sunday.
Essendon's reserves and Sandringham begin their seasons next weekend.
Ben Guthrie is a reporter for AFL.com.au. Follow him on Twitter- @AFL_BenGuthrie