ESSENDON fans are smiling.
High-octane, sling-shot football and run-and-carry.
For the first time in a long time, Bombers fans can bank on a good run through finals.
Finally, that dreaded 16-year curse without a September victory could be on the way out.
What a monkey off the back that would be.
Friday night's clash with the Western Bulldogs, however, will offer even more insight into Essendon's condition.
Dylan Shiel, who was suspended for a high bump on North Melbourne's Curtis Taylor, will be absent and Essendon's midfield will need to adapt.
Can the Bombers, who've already had to overcome a suspension to star midfielder Zach Merrett earlier this season, weather the storm again?
"Dylan is out of that midfield rotation and potentially Conor (McKenna) is out of the back half but we've been getting some good hitouts into the rest of our list since we've been up here," coach John Worsfold said.
"They're in good shape ready to come in. We'll give that dilberation around how we're going to fill Dylan's role.
"Whether that's a player coming in to fill that role directly or us moving things around a little bit, that'll be all part of our discussions once we get through training."
Worsfold speaks often about players needing to "play their role".
It translates to the field. The Bombers' free-flowing, fast style and reliance on players of a smaller stature has propelled them into the top four.
A win against the Bulldogs could move Essendon to equal first. But the Bombers aren't getting ahead of themselves.
"The feeling all along has been that we're learning a lot this year," Worsfold said.
"We've adjusted some things but we're in the phase of growing and learning. The way the players have adapted to that has been awesome.
"The way the players have supported each other and come in and played their role is what we expect of each other."
Defender Conor McKenna is a chance to play against the Bulldogs despite having surgery on his hand this week.
McKenna broke his finger against North Melbourne.
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