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Crows feel need for speed as Pyke vows: 'No selection experiments'

Football

UPDATED | The finals-bound Crows are braced for an attacking onslaught from a Bombers outfit playing for the first time since club stalwart Jobe Watson announced he will retire at season's end - but Adelaide coach Don Pyke warns: "We have got a lot to play for as well."

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AFL pacesetter Adelaide is daring Essendon to launch a full-blooded attack in Saturday night’s game at Etihad Stadium, hoping the Bombers stick to their speedy, ultra-attacking style.

“We like playing that style… so far this year we have enjoyed the games played at speed,” Adelaide assistant coach David Teague told reporters today.

“Our boys respond well (to that style) and our offence generally enjoys it, our ability to get the ball forward and score.

“And our ability to then defend the fast game is probably our strength.”

The Crows are the league’s highest-scoring team this season. The Bombers, who hold eighth spot by percentage, are the third-highest.

“And it’s not just the key forwards, they compete well in the air, but they have got some smalls at ground level as well,” Teague said of the Bombers.

“It’s probably more the way they move the ball as a team. They move it quick, they like to use the corridor.

“It’s going to be a great test for our ability to slow them down and hopefully limit the damage.”

Essendon has been weakened by the suspension to star midfielder Zach Merrett and the injury-forced withdrawals of ruckman Tom Bellchambers (foot) and goalsneak Orazia Fantasia (hamstring).

The Bombers have also dropped Michael Hartley and rested Michael Baguley, with Andrew McGrath, Matthew Leuenberger and James Kelly among the inclusions.

But the Bombers may have an extra spring in their stride as they honour retiring former captain Watson, in many ways the public face of the impact the supplements scandal had on the playing group.

“A fantastic career, it’s always sad when you see great players bow out,” Pyke said of Watson yesterday.

“I think Essendon would want to perform well for Essendon and we’re they are at in the season as well as for Jobe… but we have got a lot to play for as well.”

Key defender Daniel Talia and winger David Mackay have overcome niggling injuries to be named in an unchanged lineup for tomorrow night’s clash, with the Crows hoping to maintain at least a six-point buffer between them and the chasing pack.

Pyke ruled out resting players in the run to the finals.

“We are probably not entering that space,” he said.

“I’m probably more a believer of continuing on, if guys are in good form, keeping them playing good footy… (resting players) isn’t something have thought about significantly, to be honest.

“Where we sit on the ladder, we want to maintain that position.

“We have given ourselves an opportunity to go into the finals in a really strong position… and that, for us, starts with another four points on Saturday night.

“From there, I think players want to play.

“The reality of the system at the moment is there is a bye between the last game and the first final.

“If we start getting too cute and over-manage it… it’s sometimes hard to get back and going or it takes a bit of time.

“And certainly this is not the time of year where I want to experiment too much.”

-AAP 

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