Bombers face Anzac Day litmus test against Magpies

Essendon's AFL Anzac Day blockbuster against Collingwood will be a litmus test for how far they've come since the dismal end to last season.

The Bombers go into Thursday's MCG clash against the reigning premiers feeling like they are on the right track, with a 4-2 record.

They were also 4-1 before last year's Anzac Day match, which the Magpies won by 13 points, but captain Zach Merrett said their game now feels more sustainable.

The Magpies have won seven of the past 10 Anzac Day matches and returned to form last weekend with a seven-goal belting of Port Adelaide.

Merrett said Thursday will show how far the Bombers have come since the end of last season, when GWS and then Collingwood trounced Essendon to smash their fading finals hopes.

"The important part of it for us is we were able to play them when they were flying late last year ... (but) we weren't able to compete with them across any quarters, really," Merrett said.

"So to be able to play them now ... this will give us a really good sounding board, a reference, as to what we've worked on in the pre-season and the first six weeks.

"(We can) review that last game last year to now - what we've improved on, or haven't improved on, and how we can challenge what they're doing at their best.

"It's one thing to know, it's (another) thing to execute for 120 minutes against these teams."

Merrett and Collingwood skipper Darcy Moore spoke on Tuesday at the RAAF Base Point Cook, outside Melbourne.

Moore said the significance of the match is never lost on the two teams.

"It's one of the great privileges of playing for one of these two clubs ... show respect to the history of sacrifice and service in this country," he said.

Merrett said former Essendon stars Jobe Watson and Dustin Fletcher, as well as ex-Collingwood forward Travis Cloke spoke to the current team about their Anzac Day experiences.

Cloke now works at Essendon.

"They gave us tingles and butterflies, thinking about the opportunity at hand," Merrett said.

"But we also know we're playing a small role in the grand scheme of things. We're very fortunate."

Merrett missed last year's match through suspension, and this will be the first time he captains Essendon on Anzac Day.

"Definitely last year, missing, was a reminder of how fickle the game can be," he said.

"So to be lining up in my game (on Anzac Day) as captain is super-special."

Zach Merrett tackles Collingwood's Scott Pendlebury
Essendon's Zach Merrett tackles Collingwood's Scott Pendlebury during the 2019 Anzac Day clash. (Julian Smith/AAP PHOTOS)

Early in the game, Collingwood veteran Scott Pendlebury is expected to rack up his 10,000th career disposal - the AFL record.

"He always plays a bit coy and pretends he doesn't know anything about any of the records, but he definitely does," Moore said.

"It is, again, another extraordinary achievement. I feel like a bit of a broken record at times, with the amount of amazing achievements and unprecedented things that Scott has done."

Merrett also made no secret of his respect for the Magpie veteran.

"I'm the biggest Scott Pendlebury fan there is, probably going around," he said.