ESSENDON coach John Worsfold says Sunday's improved performance against St Kilda was a window into what his team can produce when it gets the ball forward regularly.
The Bombers kicked their highest score for the season in a nail-biting loss to the Saints, slamming through 14.14 (98) but falling 11 points short.
Worsfold said the team's 55 inside 50s – well beyond the AFL-low 45.5 they average this season - showed signs of what the future may hold. They also managed to keep St Kilda to 59 forward entries.
"It was valuable just to see how the forward line functions when we get the ball forward more often … most of our games this year we haven't had over 40 [inside 50s]," the coach said.
"So that gives a better indication of how the forwards can work together and what they can offer.
"So obviously for the future to continue to grow, our aim will be that we pump the ball inside 50 that many times and we get better defensively and hold the opposition to less as well."
Worsfold remained "hugely disappointed" that his team had not snatched a second win for the season, having been seven points clear halfway through the final term.
But he said the players had delivered on everything the coaches had asked of them and he was proud.
Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti was among the team's best players, with his effective move into the forward line one of the highlights for the Bombers.
"He continues to show that he's got a bright career ahead of him with his versatility to play forward," Worsfold said.
"He's creative, he was clean, he took his opportunities and he set up some opportunities.
"He's fairly composed when he get the ball, so he showed the same composure to kick inside 50 as he has when he comes off half-back.
"That is exciting, because there's a lot more pressure and a lot less space when you kick inside 50."
McDonald-Tipungwuti was joined in a young forward line by Orazio Fantasia (22 games), Will Hams (10), Mitch Brown (30) and Joe Daniher (63).
The way they worked as a group to produce the Bombers' highest score this season was exciting for the club.
"They're raw and they're learning," Worsfold said.
"We haven't seen them all together too often and we'd like to see them for longer periods this year to know how they can operate together.
"We're looking for a win, but we're also looking to be competitive and continue to learn about the way we want to play and get that chemistry with each other.
"That only comes from training hard together and trying to continue to put it together on the field."
As the Bombers prepare to welcome back up to 12 banned players at the end of the season, it was put to Worsfold that he could have some difficult list decisions to make after his first season in charge.
"Bring it on," the coach said.
"With the way a lot of the players are developing, we're going to have to have our best list for the immediate future next year, but with a strong eye to how good it's going to be over the next five or six years as well."