Hird backs big three to cause havoc
Greg Buckle
13:28 AEST Sun Jul 1 2012

Essendon coach James Hird has taunted rival AFL teams, saying they're going to find it tough to shut down the Bombers' three big marking targets.

The fourth-placed Bombers scored seven goals to one in the first quarter against Western Bulldogs on Saturday night at Etihad Stadium to set up their 21.14 (140) to 8.8 (56) victory, finishing strongly with six goals to two in the final term.

Centre half-forward Michael Hurley pushed through the pain barrier caused by a wrist injury to boot five goals and gather 22 possessions and 12 marks, just a week after kicking a career-best six goals in Essendon's round-13 win over Fremantle.

Brownlow Medal favourite and Essendon skipper Jobe Watson competed with Hurley for best-afield honours after his three-goal, 30-possession performance.

Tall forwards Patrick Ryder and Stewart Crameri kicked two goals each to form a three-pronged threat with Hurley.

"To kick the score we did and to finish 84 points in front is going to help us later in the year, particularly when West Coast, Sydney and Hawthorn all had big wins," Hird said.

The Bombers are one of four teams on 10 wins, alongside Sydney, West Coast and Adelaide, with Collingwood on top with 11 victories.

"We were happy with the way he (Hurley) was playing pretty much all year, but he has been rewarded now in the last two weeks with goals, which gives us a totally different look," Hird said.

"When you've got Crameri kicking goals, Ryder kicking goals and Hurley kicking goals, there's a number of options they have to stop and it's a hard forward-line to know where to focus."

Hird said Crameri and Hurley should be fit for next Saturday night's clash with St Kilda at Etihad Stadium.

Hurley wore a black glove after his left wrist was trodden upon during the Fremantle game while Crameri was subbed out in the third quarter with a bruised calf.

The Bombers handed out a lesson to the Bulldogs in efficient ball use, having 35 scoring shots to the visiting side's 16 despite a narrow 54-48 advantage in the inside-50 entries.

Hird said Watson had stood up when the game was there to be won by grabbing nine possessions in the first 15 minutes.

Bulldogs' halfback Rob Murphy says Watson would be a popular Brownlow winner.

"James Hird has got them playing some great football because last night they were far too good for us and they're exciting to watch as well," Murphy told Seven's AFL Game Day.

"Crameri is really an under-rated player still I think, Patty Ryder is a special talent.

"Michael Hurley is now a genuine superstar of the competition."

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