Mitch Brown and McKernan both came into the forward line for the second half of 2018 to blend with Jake Stringer, who was the club’s leading goalkicker with 30 goals, Orazio Fantasia and Anthony McDonald-Tupungwuti.
McKernan started last year in the VFL before coming into the side and botting half of his 16 goals in two games against Geelong and North Melbourne. He missed the last five games of the season.
Stewart began last season as the Bombers’ preferred tall forward and second ruck, and booted 15 goals before playing out the season in the VFL.
Essendon also recruited former Fremantle Dockers ruckman Zac Clarke as a back up ruck and conceivably he could be used forward and as second ruck though typically Clarke has only pinch-hit forward and played predominantly as a ruck. He booted 46 goals in his 101 games at the Dockers.
“There are no easy games in football and we’ll take on the Giants who are a class outfit. Our squad’s in terrific shape barring a couple of injuries,” Daniher said on Friday.
“We’ve had guys who’ve had magnificent pre-seasons, we’ve seen the development of a couple of players throughout the JLT series and we’re really confident in our squad.
“We’re in good shape to take on not only just round one, but set ourselves up for a long, solid year.”
Helpfully for Essendon, GWS will be without first ruck Shane Mumford for the opening game due to suspension.
The Giants will also be without co-captain Callan Ward after he suffered a knee injury that will keep him out for the early rounds of the season.
Small forward Toby Greene, who managed only nine games last season as he battled a series of different injuries, will be in the Giants line up for the first match.
“It’s definitely been a different build up to last year,” he told reporters on Friday.
“I’ve done a good eight weeks of training now … so I’m extremely confident at where I’m at,” Greene said recently.
Michael Gleeson is an award-winning senior sports writer specialising in AFL and athletics.