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AFL Previews Essendon and Fremantle

2020 FINISHED 13th 6 wins 10 loses 1 draw

It seems like this sentence has been said year after year about Essendon ever since the supplements saga but it remains true…“This will be an interesting year for Essendon”.

An outflux of top end talent, a new senior coach, a departing premiership coach and an audacious game plan are key areas that will see the Bombers sink or swim.

Our view is Essendon continue to consider themselves a “powerhouse” off the ground AND on the ground. Off the ground maybe but on field definitely not! There “rip, shit and bust” game style appeals when it works but most of the time it does not work. It certainly will not take them anywhere deep into finals and a change of game style is coach Rutten’s immediate challenge.

Firstly how Essendon function with the loss of key personnel will be intriguing. Joe Daniher, Ahmed Saad, Orazio Fantasia and Shaun McKernan are all holes to fill. Although these players are a big loss perhaps it’s the comments from Ben Rutten in an email to his members that gave us the biggest insight. Rutten stated “Essendon will be a blue collar, workmanlike and dependable side”

This sounds like it will be the biggest challenge this playing group will have (supplements saga aside). To become the club Rutten is talking about would be a total identity change in this group. This group is a free wheeling high risk/reward group and they are high octane NOT blue collar. So how Rutten stamps his influence on this group will be some of the most intriguing watching in 2021. In all honesty historically it has the recipe to go pear shaped with a rookie coach looking to totally flip the dynamics of the group. It could have disastrous consequences if he doesn’t get the buy in so time will tell.

Essendon are masters at moving the ball quickly however the lack of real pressure around the contest (rank 15th) leaves them very vulnerable. Leadership also looks an issue at this club and there doesn’t look a lot to help captain Heppell and who can step up is a real concern.


2020 12th 7 wins 10 loses

On face value you probably have to say that the first season for the Dockers under new coach Justin Longmuir was somewhat of a success. They had their highest finishing position since the 2013 Grand Final, finishing 12th with 7 wins and 12 losses. 4 of those losses were by 2 goals or less so with some more improvement one feels the Dockers can make a bit of a move. This is no mean feat given that Longmuir replaced experienced coach Ross Lyon who has strong but sometimes fractured relationships with his team and staff. Make no mistake Lyon is one of the best in the business.

When you look at their season it was clear that Longmuir was very focussed on defence. They really locked this aspect of their game away ranking 5th in the AFL behind Port Adelaide, Richmond, Geelong and Collingwood. Their challenge this year will be to get some balance the other way because scoring was an issue for them at times ranking 17th offensively.

The forward structure is yet to be fully revealed. The Dockers moved Jesse Hogan on after flopping and no doubt Fyfe will be part of their scoring answer. Freo suffered badly with injuries last season and they had the 3rd most injuries in the AFL. It will be important to keep their players on the park (as it will for all sides).

Improvement should come from the players having a better understanding of the coaches game plan. There should also be some genuine improvement from the plethora of youth that has been blooded at Fremantle. They have a genuine chance at making some nice ground up the ladder and can sneak into the Finals in 2021.