ESSENDON is challenging Joe Daniher and Cale Hooker to become one of the AFL's most damaging forward-line duos, while explosive defender Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti is also set for stints in attack this year.
Daniher was forced to shoulder a heavy load in the Dons' forward 50 last season when Hooker was one of 12 Dons sidelined by WADA suspensions.
The forward performed admirably under the circumstances, finishing fourth in the AFL for contested marks (52) and topping Essendon's goalkicking with a career-high 43 majors.
So Essendon is understandably excited to see what the 22-year-old can achieve with Hooker alongside him in attack in 2017.
Hooker, an All Australian key defender in 2014, has been training with the Bombers' forwards group this pre-season, having kicked 20 goals when thrown forward in 2015's final 10 rounds.
Essendon forwards coach Hayden Skipworth told AFL.com.au the Daniher-Hooker partnership could become one of the Dons' biggest weapons.
"I have sort of put the challenge to those guys to be two of the best contested marks in the comp," Skipworth said.
"Joey finished fourth last year (playing) by himself with not a lot of (forward 50) entries, not a lot of quality entries either, so if we can get a higher volume of entries and better entries we see him and Cale together becoming a real weapon for the side.
"They should be able to take a lot of contested marks this year."
Skipworth said Hooker still had work to do on his leading patterns and goalkicking to make the transition to a permanent forward, but the assistant coach was extremely encouraged by the 28-year-old's progress this summer.
"He's going really well. He competes really well. The smaller guys love crumbing to him, he brings the ball down centrally and he's probably our best contested mark," Skipworth said.
"He's got a lot of good attributes to play forward and with (Michael) Hurley back we're spoilt to have two All Australian key defenders, so Cale was the one we decided to have a look at pushing forward."
McDonald-Tipungwuti was a revelation for Essendon in 2016, coming off the rookie list to play 21 games and finish seventh in the club's best and fairest award.
But as damaging as the former Essendon VFL player was rebounding from half-back last season – he had 10 more running bounces than any other Bomber – he has been training with the Dons' forward group this pre-season to give him another facet to his game.
"I've coached him for the last five or six years and he's really comfortable down back. It comes very naturally to him," Skipworth said.
"I spoke to 'Woosha' (coach John Worsfold) about helping him with his leading patterns with other forwards and working together with them.
"We felt that if we could give 'Walla' (McDonald-Tipungwuti) the pre-season, especially pre-Christmas, with the forward group it just adds flexibility to the team. One, because he can help us score and, two, to really put that pressure on in the forward line."
Skipworth is also buoyed by what recycled recruits James Stewart (Greater Western Sydney) and Josh Green (Brisbane Lions) can add to Essendon's attack in 2017, saying both were ready to come into their primes.
Daniher trained away from Essendon's main group on Wednesday because of knee soreness.
Skipworth said the spearhead was expected to return to full training in three or four weeks and was hopeful he would play some part in the Bombers' JLT Community Series campaign.