THE RETURN of competitive football will allow Essendon to move past the calamitous events of the past few months, captain Brendon Goddard says.
The Bombers' plight took a turn for the worse in January with 12 of their players receiving season-long bans from the Court of Arbitration for Sport for taking banned drug Thymosin Beta-4 during the 2012 season.
Goddard, who has been appointed as the stand-in leader in Jobe Watson's absence, said the Bombers could not afford to get caught up in the past during 2016.
"It has been a slow build up for a lot of us," Goddard said at the club's training base at Tullamarine on Saturday morning.
"It's been relatively smooth the transition getting back into footy. That's the good thing about footy clubs, when there is controversy we're very quick to move on.
"It's really been a focus on what we can do and control.
"It's about looking forward. I use the analogy, 'You don't walk into the future backwards,' so it's all about looking forward and looking to the future."
The Bombers open their NAB Challenge campaign against Carlton at Ikon Park – the scene of many memorable battles between the clubs – on Sunday afternoon.
Essendon's squad lacks in experience and the Bombers have named just four of their top-up players for the clash against Carlton.
Ryan Crowley, Sam Grimley, Sam Michael and Matt Dea were the new players selected by coach John Worsfold.
However, it appears Dea, Jayden Laverde and Adam Cooney will all be late outs from the squad named to face the Blues with the trio all taking part in an intraclub VFL scratch match ahead of training on Saturday.
James Kelly, Mathew Stokes, Nathan Grima and Mark Jamar were also part of the match as they continue their preparations for the season ahead.
Goddard said the experience and mentorship of the experienced top-up players had been invaluable for the young group.
"It's been more difficult (to gel) than most clubs. The new guys who have come in have embraced the whole footy club and their roles," Goddard said.
"Publicly I'd like to thank those guys because it's made the older guys' lives a bit easier having a bit of experience and teaching the younger guys about footy.
"Having those guys come in has helped settle the place really quickly."
Goddard said he was looking forward to seeing what his younger teammates, including top draft pick Darcy Parish could deliver in his first game for the club on Sunday.
However, he will also be keeping a close eye on the opposition and, especially, the son of a Blues champion.
"When Woosha (Worsfold) was talking before (in the team meeting), I was actually tuning out because I saw Jack Silvagni's name up on the board," Goddard said.
"I used to kick the footy with Jack when SOS (Stephen Silvagni) was an assistant coach at St Kilda.
"It's quite weird to see Jack when he was knee-high to a grasshopper and now I'm playing football against him. It's pretty surreal actually."