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Jobe sizzles as Dons smash short Giants

Highlights: Giants v Bombers GWS and Essendon clash in round three of the 2013 NAB Cup
Sam Frost of the Giants tackles Jobe Watson of Essendon during the 2013 NAB Cup round 03 match between the GWS Giants and the Essendon Bombers at Manuka Oval, Canberra. (Photo: Craig Golding/AFL Media)
Jobe Watson tries to handball during Essendon's win against GWS
We needed some quality football. Our focus tonight was to go in and be good defensively
James Hird
ESSENDON has enjoyed a much-needed tune-up ahead of round one, thumping Greater Western Sydney by 91 points in the Bombers' final NAB Cup outing.

The Bombers had 13 goalkickers in the 1.16.14 (119) to 0.4.4 (28) win, and dominated every aspect of the game only two weeks from their season-opening meeting with Adelaide at AAMI Stadium.

James Hird's men had 157 more disposals, 20 more clearances, and sent the ball inside their forward 50 a staggering 34 more times than their younger and less experienced opponents at Manuka Oval on Friday night.

The only sour point for the Bombers seemed to be an ankle injury to star forward Michael Hurley in the last quarter.

Hurley, already with a strapped quad from last week, limped off the ground and received attention from the club's medical staff, but he did return later in the quarter and appeared unimpeded.

Ryder ready to rise: Hird

For most Bombers it was their last chance to prepare for the home and away campaign, with only a few players (including injured midfielder David Zaharakis) likely to take part in a VFL practice match next week.

But the result against the Giants was hardly a surprise considering the relative strength of the squads.  

Giants' tall forward pair Jonathon Patton and Jeremy Cameron didn't play, and first-choice players Dom Tyson, Chad Cornes, Jonathan Giles, Matt Buntine, Lachie Whitfield, Stephen Gilham, Devon Smith and Will Hoskin-Elliott were also missing.

Essendon made the most of its advantage. The Bombers got their hands on the ball more and used it as a strong opportunity to fine-tune their game plan.

Perhaps more importantly the Bombers will take a healthy dose of confidence from the Canberra trip after a disappointing loss to Richmond at Wangaratta last week.

Jobe Watson was prolific in his second game back from a minor knee injury, with last year's Brownlow medallist collecting 31 disposals in a best-on-ground showing.

Dyson Heppell also showed he has the tools to move permanently into the midfield this season with 21 possessions before being subbed off in the third quarter.

The forward line worked better. Just last week Hird admitted the structure of three tall targets – Hurley, Paddy Ryder and Stewart Crameri – could be susceptible if they were not working in sync.

Ryder was prominent against the Giants with 21 touches and three goals, while Hurley attacked the ball harder on the lead and appeared more comfortable as the game wore on, finishing with five marks.

There were few highlights for the Giants. Dylan Shiels sped away from a few packs and Sam Frost kicked two goals, but it was a much different side to the one which will take on the Sydney Swans on March 30.

What it means
Not a lot, really. The proverbial pre-season game where one team is resting a group of key players and the other is playing a full-strength side makes it a difficult one to assess. No doubt the Bombers looked cleaner and sharper than at any stage of the pre-season, but the Giants were even younger than they usually are.

What the coaches said
"Essendon brought one of their best sides and we've got to look at players who we want to eventually be in our best side. I think in the end it's all about playing against the Swans in round one. That's what our focus is." – GWS coach Kevin Sheedy

"We needed some quality football. I thought we performed reasonably well in the first [round of the] NAB Cup, we weren't happy with last week. Richmond really dominated us throughout the game and we weren't able to defend them well enough. Our focus tonight was to go in and be good defensively." -  Essendon coach James Hird

Fantasy snapshot
Bombers captain Jobe Watson (midfielder, $579,400) was rusty against the Tigers last week in his first game back from injury, but he stepped things up a few gears against the Giants. With 31 disposals and two goals, Watson amassed 120 AFL Fantasy points. After averaging 112.45 points last year, there seems no sign Watson won't be one of the top players again in 2013.

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY    0.1.1    0.3.2    0.4.3       0.4.4 (28)                  
ESSENDON                                        1.5.5   1.9.7    1.12.8     1.16.14 (119)          


Greater Western Sydney: Nil
Essendon: Goddard

Greater Western Sydney:
Frost 2, O'hAilpin, Palmer
Essendon: Ryder 3, Hocking 2, Watson 2, Baguley, Bellchambers, Davey, Hibberd, Hooker, Howlett, Kavanagh, Merrett, Myers

Greater Western Sydney:
Adams, Coniglio, Greene, Shiel, Plowman, Treloar
Essendon: Watson, Ryder, Heppell, Stanton, Hibberd, Myers, Bellchambers, Goddard, Hocking

Greater Western Sydney:
Ward (head), O'Rourke (leg)
Essendon: Hurley (ankle)
Reports: Heath Hocking (Essendon) reported for head high contact on Tomas Bugg (GWS)
Official crowd: 8,044 at Manuka Oval