Five new faces for Essendon in AFL opener

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Harrison Jones and Nik Cox will make their AFL debuts as Essendon unleash five new faces in their season-opener against Hawthorn on Saturday night.

Peter Wright, Nick Hind and Jye Caldwell - all recruited via rival clubs over the off-season - will also line up for the Bombers at Marvel Stadium.

Cox, taken at No.8 overall in last year's draft, was one of three top-10 picks in Essendon's bumper haul last December and is set to play on the wing.

"Nik Cox hasn't played a proper game of footy for nearly 18 months, so it's a huge effort from him," Bombers coach Ben Rutten said.

"He has presented, he's done nearly every session at training and he's really built his game over the last couple of weeks as well.

"I'm looking forward to what he can do, not only this week, but throughout the season he will keep getting better and better."

Key forward Jones was a second-round draft pick in 2019 and looms as a potential long-term replacement for Joe Daniher and will line up alongside former Gold Coast tall Wright in a new-look attack.

Jake Stringer is not yet back to full fitness and will be eased back from a leg injury through the reserves, playing limited minutes this week.

Bombers captain Dyson Heppell was limited to three matches because of injury last season and is set for a new role across half-back.

"He played a lot of footy back there in his early years at Essendon and he'll provide a lot of experience and a bit of calmness back there for our defensive unit," Rutten said.

The Hawthorn clash will be Rutten's first in full control of Essendon after completing the handover from John Worsfold.

"It sort of feels like my first game again," Rutten said.

"There's a good combination of nerves and excitement and I'm really looking forward to seeing what the guys can do.

"I feel like we're well prepared and certainly looking forward to being back at home in front of our fans."