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New-look Crows and Dons for round one

Football

Star recruits Jake Stringer and Bryce Gibbs are set to take centre stage when a new-look Essendon and Adelaide launch their AFL season tonight at Etihad Stadium.

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Stringer will line up alongside fellow recruits Devon Smith and Adam Saad as the Bombers set off on the long road to redemption after last year’s elimination final thrashing.

A premiership player with the Western Bulldogs, Stringer has been named on a half-forward flank but is expected to spend the majority of his time rotating through the midfield.

Smith will add extra grunt to the Bombers’ engine room while Saad is expected to bring newfound pace to the half-back line.

Injuries to Orazio Fantasia (knee), David Myers (calf), Travis Colyer (foot) and Martin Gleeson (ankle) have meanwhile opened the door for Michael Hartley, Mitch Brown, Matt Dea and Kyle Langford.

“Obviously it’s not ideal to lose some of those guys but we’ve had really great depth throughout the whole summer,” coach John Worsfold told the Bombers’ website.

“Guys like Matty Dea have had a really great pre-season, Michael Hartley and Mitch Brown both have had really good pre-seasons as well so they’re ready to go.

“Kyle Langford has been working on his midfield game for a number of years through the VFL now so it’s a great opportunity for him.”

Adelaide will blood five newcomers led by ex-Carlton star Gibbs and North Melbourne recruit Sam Gibson.

The Crows have also named 18-year-old forward Darcy Fogarty, 19-year-old Lachlan Murphy and 21-year-old defender Tom Doedee to make their AFL debuts, with Adelaide facing a growing injury list which now includes Tom Lynch (side strain), captain Taylor Walker (foot), Riley Knight (ankle), Brad Crouch (groin) and Alex Keath (ankle).

Don Pyke’s side have dominated Essendon in recent years but last year’s grand finalists are wary of an improved Bombers side.

“Essendon have probably had a DNA last year around (being) a high-scoring team. They really had the ability to challenge teams from an offensive viewpoint,” Pyke said.

“And they have been on record as saying they want to improve their defensive stuff so we expect that is the case.”

– with AAP

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