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Bombers looking slim for new year
Greg Buckle
10:57 AEST Fri Jan 18 2013

Essendon captain Jobe Watson predicts that a slimmed-down Michael Hurley could be the key to the Bombers in defence and attack in the upcoming AFL season.

Injuries restricted the 193cm key-position player to only 16 games last year but he has recovered well from wrist surgery and epitomises the new slim-line Bombers, as does Watson, who's set for another big campaign after winning the Brownlow Medal in 2012.

The 27-year-old Watson, who is listed as 190cm and 94kg, is also looking leaner following an endurance-based training load.

It's a far cry from the soft-tissue injury dramas the 11th-placed Bombers endured last year after placing a big emphasis on building body strength.

"A few guys have been conscious about getting a bit lighter as the game is moving a little bit more into an endurance style," Watson told reporters on Friday.

"The most pleasing thing has been the numbers we have training at the moment.

"There's maybe one or two guys who aren't able to complete it and they're only a few weeks away.

"Just to be able to get the work into such a large majority of the group has probably been the biggest difference from 12 months ago.

"It just means they're not coming in under-done and trying to catch up and when you're trying to catch up it means you're pushing harder and that can lead to some injuries that we did have 12 months ago.

"The way 'Hurls' has come back and the way he looks, Michael Hibberd is another guy who came to Colorado (training camp) and it was really beneficial for him."

Watson said Hurley was able to do running drills with the the club before Christmas and then had a plaster cast removed from his wrist following surgery.

"He has certainly noticed the difference being lighter. It's noticeable out there on the track," Watson said.

"He'll probably start as a forward. He can play anywhere."

Watson said he felt energised by a November training camp hiking through the snow in Colorado and returned to post a personal-best time in a 2km time trial.

The Bombers open their pre-season cup campaign with matches against the Western Bulldogs and Collingwood at Etihad Stadium on February 15.