Sports

Inside Essendon: A week which could define the club’s future

32Views

This is Essendons election campaign. The importance of the next eight quarters of football for the Dons have not been lost on those at Tullamarine. Several Bomber insiders have noted that Saturday nights meeting with Fremantle in Perth, and the following Friday nights game against Collingwood at the MCG, will shape the direction of the club over the next four years.

The stakes are high. The prevailing view from those at the club spoken to by The Age this week is that it is hard to foresee Worsfold being with the Bombers next year if the Dons dont make the finals, and that even a first-round finals defeat could prove the end of his tenure. Essentially, nothing short of a first finals win in 15 years will entirely secure the 2006 premiership coach, whose competitive streak led him back to the hot seat after initially helping out at Adelaide in 2015 following the death of his former deputy Phil Walsh.

Essendon players form a huddle at training on Wednesday.

Essendon players form a huddle at training on Wednesday.Credit:AAP

Change has already started to sweep through a political football department in which differences of opinion over game style and perceived agendas of various assistant coaches has created an environment in which some players have been allowed to get away with breaking team rules, in turn creating a sense of frustration for others.

High-performance chief Justin Crow will part ways with the club at seasons end in the wake of mounting pressure and a crippling injury list. At least one of Crows underlings has also been told his time is up.

Advertisement

Assistants Paul Corrigan and Rob Harding, the latter of whom followed Worsfold from Adelaide, will both depart in the coming weeks. Most of the other assistants are understood to be contracted for next year, as is Worsfold, who signed a two-year extension early in 2018. There is some doubt, however, about midfield performance coach Hayden Skipworth, who is believed to be out of contract.

There is a view internally that Worsfolds mandate has slowly been whittled down since the end of 2017 when football department chief Rob Kerr left the club and was replaced by Daniel Richardson, who arrived from reigning premiers Richmond. Partly that is because Worsfold, in stark contrast to the brute of a player he was at West Coast in the 1990s, is the type of person who likes to empower those around him.

Essendon coach John Worsfold speaks to the media ahead of training on Wednesday.

Essendon coach John Worsfold speaks to the media ahead of training on Wednesday.Credit:AAP

Richardson, having overseen difficult but ultimately justified changes on the Tigers coaching panel at the end of 2016 before being subordinated by the super-experienced Neil Balme, arrived at Essendon as something of a change agent, not unlike Simon Lethlean at St Kilda. He was responsible for the unceremonious exit of Worsfold loyalist Mark Neeld early last year, another call which in hindsight proved justified, and has since lured two highly touted assistants from Punt Road: Ben Rutten at the end of last year and Blake Caracella last week.

Rutten, whose defensive methods from Richmond were instilled into the Essendon playing group over the summer, is viewed at Tullamarine as Worsfolds most likely internal successor, although should Worsfold be sacked there will doubtless be a groundswell of support from supporters for 2000 premiership player Caracella. The actual implementation of Ruttens philosophies has been an interesting study too, with opinions mixed about just how much the message has Read More – Source