NEW footy boss Dan Richardson says Essendon will forge its own playing style this year rather than replicate Richmond's successful premiership template.
The highly-rated football administrator crossed from Richmond to the Bombers in December to help support third-year Essendon coach John Worsfold and his new-look football department.
The accepted wisdom is that Essendon is still short of inside midfield grunt despite its off-season acquisitions and immensely talented list.
But the Bombers will back in their strengths, which saw them third for scoring in the home-and-away season last year and featuring quick, aggressive ball movement.
Richardson says one of the key lessons from Richmond's premiership success was to play a game plan that utilises the players' strengths, rather than minimises their deficiencies.
The Bombers play an AFLX round robin tournament on Friday week, JLT games against Richmond (February 24) and Geelong (March 11) then a Round 1 home clash against Adelaide on March 23.
All clubs will attempt to bring more forward pressure this year to win forward-half turnovers but it doesn't mean they have to slavishly replicate the Tigers.
"You take some learnings from wherever you go and I have learnt a lot from Richmond and the people there," Richardson told the Herald Sun.
"But that said I don't believe you can just try to copy what someone else has done. You have to forge your own path.
"You need to form your own brand and way of doing things, that's what any good organisation does. There is no point trying to follow what someone else has done before you or you will continually be in their shadow.
"One of the things Richmond learnt was that you allow a team and the players in that team to play to their strengths, whatever they may be.
"We particularly learnt that in the past 12 months."
Many of the Bombers stars will play both those JLT games to tune up for Round 1, with the Bombers not set on the make-up of their AFLX squad.
Silky outside runner Travis Colyer will be in a moon boot with inflammation of the sesamoid bone for three weeks, while Aaron Francis is working back into the main group after recent hip flexor pain.
He has not enjoyed the unblemished pre-season he had hoped after an aborted trade, but the Bombers medical list has few long-term issues.
Michael Hurley is in match play after hip and wrist surgery, and Josh Green (foot surgery) and David Myers (finger surgery) have enjoyed plenty of pre-season work.
Matthew Leuenberger also is easing back into match practice four months on from shoulder surgery.
The shortened JLT series - three games down to two - means less kids will be on show during that pre-season competition as clubs get two games into senior players.
It doesn't mean Essendon won't play some of its stars in the JLT as it tries to hit Round 1 full of running against the beaten Grand Finalist of last year.
"We have had two sessions where we have trialled it and it's a game suited to players with high endurance and high running capacity,'' Richardson said.
"But having said that it's also a game with high rotations so we can manage our players. It's new and everyone will take a little while to understand the implications of what the game involves with selections and tactics.
"I think we are planning to field a fair portion of our senior players."
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