Dream weaver

Thursday, July 18

ESSENDON coach Kevin Sheedy has claimed the underdog tag for Saturday night's AFL blockbuster with the rampaging and in form Cats.

In an attempt to shift the focus from his Bombers, who have slipped from fourth to eighth on the highly volatile ladder, Sheedy said the sixth placed Cats were ``slippery'' and difficult to match up.

The four-time premiership coach went as far to can a talked about myth that Geelong was younger.

``I read they have 10 players who haven't played 50 games but we could say the same thing but no-one would consider that,'' Sheedy said before training at Windy Hill yesterday.

``Last week we had nine players who wouldn't have played 50 games each.

``It is pretty close between Essendon and Geelong but a lot of people don't realise that Essendon is one of the youngest teams in the competition.''

But his search for underdog status was in vain, with Essendon last night holding on as favourites for Saturday's match at $1.55, with the Cats at $2.30.

The Bombers are under the most pressure since 1998 when they had won only five games up until round 14 before holding together a six game streak to finish eighth overall.

Essendon will rush Dustin Fletcher back into its side but Paul Salmon has again been ruled out with a back complaint, opening the door for Steven King to dominate the ruck contest duels.

Utility Chris Heffernan didn't train with the main group yesterday but Sheedy said Heffernan was being rested and was not in doubt for Saturday's match.

Fletcher, the cog which rotates the Bombers' defence, will return from his two-match suspension and may play as a forward.

Sheedy's spin was working overdrive at Windy Hill last night, suggesting Fletcher would find a new home on Saturday night.

``The backline's been pretty strong and very good over the last couple of weeks,'' Sheedy said.

``I think we've got the second best defensive unit in the AFL which is a pretty good effort. We might be able to play Fletcher on the forward line.

``That'd take a pretty good effort to man up (Scott) Lucas, (Matthew) Lloyd, (James) Hird and Fletcher,'' he added.

Geelong is searching for their seventh win on the trot in a feat not achieved since 1991 and coach Mark Thompson has lauded that the best is yet to come.

Sheedy described Kent Kingsley and Cameron Mooney's as ``kicking butt'', highlighting the Cats' plethora of goalkicking and forward options.

``Everybody is hard to match up if their on the button and Geelong was on the button last week,'' he said. ``They got out of the blocks last week and when Collingwood put the pressure on they lifted and answered the challenge.''

Sheedy admitted he breathed a sigh of relief when Ling was rubbed out of the Bombers' clash at the AFL tribunal after his `I want Hird' declaration.

``That kid has done marvellously well,'' he said.

``At one stage he was an overweight full forward (at the Geelong Falcons) who has become a fantastic midfielder. I have no doubt that Geelong had terrific knowledge of his capacity for aerobic fitness

``You look at him and thing `why didn't we pick him ourselves'.

``We only saw him as a big redheaded full forward.

``To see him out, well, it definitely helped us. He is a very, very good player.''