Essendon legend Michael Long believes Saturday night's Dreamtime feature match against Richmond can give his AFL club the lift it desperately needs.
Long has been disappointed by the Bombers' horror 2-7 start to the season, which has brought fierce scrutiny on coach Ben Rutten and the playing group.
But the Indigenous champion says the Dreamtime contest, which returns to the MCG for the first time in three years, offers Essendon the chance to make a statement.
"It's one of the key games for the AFL and I know a lot of the Indigenous players love to play in this game and on this weekend," Long said.
"If that gives them (Essendon) a rev-up ... I hope it does. We'll see on the weekend.
"They'll be hurting from last weekend, so you'd want to bounce back, personally, as a player.
"Especially in Dreamtime at the 'G, we'd love to see that."
The blowtorch has intensified on Essendon since last week's 58-point thrashing from Sydney sent them crashing to third-last on the ladder.
Critics have questioned the Bombers' on-field physicality, or lack of it, following Sydney star Luke Parker's on-field mocking of Dylan Shiel.
"Most of our players are trying their best and sometimes you don't see that from afar, but hopefully we put in a strong performance this weekend," Long said.
Essendon have lost their last 11 meetings with Richmond, including a 39-point defeat in last year's Dreamtime fixture at Optus Stadium.
"It would be nice (to see a response) because they've given us a touch-up for a while, Richmond," Long said.
It is 18 years since Long walked from his home in Melbourne to Canberra in a bid to put the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on the national agenda.
The 52-year-old, a two-time Bombers premiership player and 1993 Norm Smith medallist, will lead the Long Walk from Federation Square to the MCG before Saturday's Dreamtime match.
The feature event was played in Perth and Darwin over the last two years because of restrictions in Melbourne during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's always a special week and it's good to be back (in Melbourne), given what's happened everywhere around the globe," Long said.
Australian Associated Press
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