Captains Dyson Heppell and Ben McEvoy will face off on Saturday. Photo: Essendon FC

Essendon coach Ben Rutten is confident his new-look back six will help get a win in his first game in charge of the Bombers

Essendon coach Ben Rutten has backed in a new-look defence for his first game in charge, dismissing suggestions the unit may be undersized heading into Saturday night’s round one clash with traditional rivals Hawthorn.

Speaking at his press conference at The Hangar on Thursday morning, Rutten told The Inner Sanctum he was confident the Bombers’ undersized back six would get the job done.

“We’ve had some new personnel back there. Jayden Laverde, we’ve liked what he’s been able to do. Marty Gleeson, Aaron Francis, [and] Jordan Ridley as well are those kinds of taller players but are really mobile and athletic so we like what they give us as an all-round defensive unit”.

“It’ll be interesting to see but hopefully this week our guys back there will be able to get the job done”.

With Hawthorn captain Ben McEvoy set to spend more time in the ruck, Jon Ceglar and Jacob Koschitzke could stretch an Essendon back six without key defenders Michael Hurley (hip infection), James Stewart (hamstring), and newfound forward Cale Hooker.

Part of this new-look defence will be skipper Dyson Heppell, returning for round one after consecutive years of injury turmoil.

“[Heppell] hasn’t played for a couple of years obviously, and I think with a couple of personnel that we don’t have from last year, it’s a great opportunity for Dyson to go back there.”

“He’s played a lot of footy back there in his early years at Essendon, and he’ll provide a lot of experience and a bit of calm back there for our defensive unit”.

Heppell could be joined by newfound defenders in Jayden Laverde and Ned Cahill, who have spent their careers in the forward line. New recruit Nick Hind also finds himself down back after being used as a small forward with St Kilda.

Hind is one of five new players who will be donning the sash for the first time, with Peter Wright, Jye Caldwell and AFL debutants Harrison Jones and Nik Cox all chosen in the 22 for Saturday’s match.

Essendon’s pick nine in the draft Archie Perkins has not been selected for round one.

“We really like what Archie can do… he wasn’t far off and I’m sure we’ll see him in the near future”.

Jake Stringer will get game-time in the VFL this weekend as he continues his rehabilitation from an achilles complaint that has hampered his pre-season.

Rutten downplayed the capabilities of his side heading into the 2021 season, reluctant to set expectations on a Finals berth in his first season at the helm.

“I think we just want to turn up at every training session; every game looking to get better”.

“We’ve got a really exciting group of players that want to be really good, so we’re creating an environment where they can turn up every day and get better”.

“There’s an opportunity for that on Saturday night against another opponent”.

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