Bombers backing run and gun to knock over Eagles
Cale Hooker says Essendon's run-and-gun game plan can help it cause a massive finals boilover against reigning premier West Coast, adamant the Bombers' time is now.
Essendon is the rank outsider of the first week of finals, rated only a $4.60 chance with TAB to dethrone the Eagles on their home turf.
But the Essendon ice man - who has twice gone forward to win games with last-gasp goals this year - told the Herald Sun there was more to the club's style than electric movement from the back half.
He will return from a groin issue and illness, with growing confidence Michael Hurley (dislocated shoulder) will join stars Orazio Fantasia (hip), Jake Stringer (hamstring) and Dyson Heppell (foot) in playing on Thursday night.
Hooker watched Essendon's last final against Sydney in 2017 while sidelined with a broken leg after 46 goals that season.
A player who has never won a final in his 11 seasons at Essendon says the pain of that missed opportunity is just one of many motivations for the 30-year-old.
"I broke my leg the week before so I didn't play in that game and it hurt watching that. So this is our next opportunity to play in a final. The brand of footy we have been playing, we have been building towards playing a good brand and it's pretty exciting, we get to test ourselves against the reigning premiers and there is no better challenge than going to Optus (Stadium) and finding out where we sit.
"We have got a few parts to our game, (the fastball movement) is the part that is always highlighted but we have got a few layers and we think it can stand up against the big teams.
"We are putting no limits on what we can do. You just never know. If you wait, you can wait forever. Our time is now. We get to have a crack, we get to enjoy it together and we will see how we go."
Hooker lauded John Worsfold's effort to resuscitate the club's fortunes since the drug ban that saw a dozen Dons including himself banned for a year.
He says external criticism is irrelevant as speculation mounts about defensive systems coach Ben Rutten's claims as the future Essendon senior coach.
""I think John has done a great job since the saga building a group which we think can play finals. Look where we are sitting now," he said.
"John is very level which is great. He provides great evenness and great levelness. He is not up and down each week
"I don't really see when people who aren't on the inside or don't really know criticise someone for how they are acting, especially when they are such an experienced coach, I think you have got to take it with a grain of salt."
West Coast will not only bring in star ruckman Nic Naitanui, they have a fleet of small forwards in Willie Rioli, Liam Ryan and Jason Cripps who will challenge the Essendon back six.
But Hooker says Essendon's back six has the personnel to stand up.
"We have tried to be a team system as a backline and have less direct match-ups and we try to play as a unit down there," he said.
"We have got a pretty strong back six, one of the better back sixes in the comp and we will keep working together to help the rest of the side.
"It is underrated how good a defender (Saad) is. He defends well and then creates and attacks well and him and Conor (McKenna) and Mason Redman and Marty Gleeson have been really important for us."