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NOW THAT the verdict is in, and Essendon has a full list from which to select, the focus can finally shift to football.

And one of the big questions heading into the opening round is how the Bombers will actually go, considering their unprecedented preparation.

James Hird has spoken over the past month about feeling like he was coaching a handful of teams throughout the pre-season: the players who were free to play in the NAB Challenge, the top-up recruits drafted into the club to fill the team, and almost half a list of players who were provisionally suspended. 

Each group had its own needs and requirements.

But before the NAB Challenge period, it was a relatively normal pre-season for the Bombers. Well, as normal as it could be while decision day loomed over the club and 18 or so players still at the club who were handed infraction notices in November. 

The fact the first three months of the off-season were customary – and only the last was out of the ordinary – gives Hird and the Bombers confidence when they travel to ANZ Stadium to take on the Sydney Swans on Saturday afternoon. 

If there was any positive to take out of the lack of experience available in the pre-season games, it was the opportunity afforded to younger players who might not otherwise have had – and grasped – them.

Jason Ashby and Martin Gleeson showed why the club sees them as part of their future across half-back, Jackson Merrett moved a little further up the ground and showed some physical development, while Orazio Fantasia offered spark and speed near goal.

The club's first, and only, two picks at last year's NAB AFL Draft –Kyle Langford and Jayden Laverde – made their debuts, as did rookie Anthony Long and Irish recruit Conor McKenna.

With the Bombers suddenly having a full complement of players available to face the Swans following the AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal's verdict, it leaves the club with some selection questions over the next two days. 

Considering important midfielder Dyson Heppell was this week passed fit to play after minor knee surgery, and veteran forward Jason Winderlich ruled out with a back injury, we have picked a possible round one Essendon team.

It includes experienced senior players David Zaharakis, Mark Baguley, Brendon Goddard and Paul Chapman who all featured in the pre-season series, but has 13 players who didn't participate at all. 

Predicted round one team vs. Sydney Swans

B: Mark Baguley, Cale Hooker, Dustin Fletcher
HB: Michael Hibberd, Michael Hurley, Courtenay Dempsey
C: David Zaharakis, Jobe Watson, Brent Stanton
HF: Patrick Ambrose, Jake Carlisle, Travis Colyer
F: Paul Chapman, Joe Daniher, Adam Cooney
Foll: Tom Bellchambers, Brendon Goddard, Dyson Heppell
Inter: Zach Merrett, David Myers, Kyle Langford
Sub: Jake Melksham