Coach tells Roosters to play tough, be assertive against Essendon

A PRODUCTIVE fortnight has passed since North Ballarat Roosters’ opening round clash.

The Victorian Football League split first round allowed the Selkirk Roosters to hit Collingwood hard – and the Roosters hit Collingwood real hard at Victoria Park – before recovering and regrouping

to meet Essendon at Windy Hill.

An extended period off, while not ideal at the season’s start, gave the Roosters time to pull apart and reconstruct their game for the tough looming four-game period that lies ahead to their

next bye – Essendon, Sandringham at home, Geelong away and the rampant returned Footscray Bulldogs at Eureka Stadium.

Ground conditions after relentless rain throughout the week may cause late changes to the Roosters today, but Roosters’ coach Gerard FitzGerald’s basic message to the entire playing group is the same: convert.

“The issue we’ve had the past couple of matches – against Collingwood and in a practice match against Werribee – is that we’ve won a lot of the ball and didn’t penetrate forward enough with the footy,” FitzGerald said.

“We need to be a little more powerful and assertive when we have the ball.”

Essendon has shown its preparedness to be patient, working the ball back of centre and chipping it about until the right player is found to drive forward.

FitzGerald said his players, when they lose the ball, had to work quickly to cut such play short – but the Roosters had to capitalise.

The Bombers, featuring former Rebels Nick O’Brien and Lauchlan Dalgleish, enter the game off shorter preparations, having opened their season in a six-point loss to Casey last Sunday.

But they also have the advantage of match momentum.

The Roosters confirmed the inclusion of leadership player Lachie George to bolster physical strength through the midfield, pressing forward.

George missed the Roosters’ first game through suspension, but his return marks his 100th VFL game in a career spanning time with Box Hill Hawks and the now-defunct Tasmania before his return to Eureka Stadium.

Defender Brad McKenzie has been recalled to North Melbourne’s line up, named on the interchange, and forward Robin Nahas will travel with the Kangaroos to Sydney as an emergency.

melanie.whelan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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