Essendon coach Ben Rutten believes the club is in a strong position to improve, despite losing three key senior players in the off-season.
Day one of pre-season got under way at Tullamarine on Monday morning, with Dyson Heppell and Michael Hurley joining the first to fourth year players.
Dyson Heppell was back at training on Monday, along with the Bombers’ first to fourth year players.Credit:Getty Images
Joe Daniher (Brisbane), Adam Saad (Carlton) and Orazio Fantasia (Port Adelaide) all found new homes in the trade period and the Bombers have used their departures to go into Wednesday’s draft armed with three top-10 picks.
But Rutten doesn’t believe that bringing in more youth is a sign the team will struggle to get better in 2021.
“We’re pushing to improve and get our way up the ladder as quickly as we can,” Rutten told reporters on Monday.
“We’re probably no different to any other team that didn’t make the finals last season, we understand we’re not where we need to be. But certainly bringing in three more eager, enthusiastic, talented young men is going to bring some energy and we’ll certainly be willing to push them and not going to put any limits on what they can achieve next year.
Essendon coach Ben Rutten addresses the media.Credit:Getty Images
“[The players who left] have been really good servants of the footy club and we certainly wish them all the best, but I think there’s some real optimism and anticipation about what we can do moving forward,” he said.
“We’re really driving to improve and grow as a footy club, but individually as well all the players have a real appetite to get better.”
Much has been made of the Bombers’ new “game plan” under Rutten, who tried to establish his own tactics in difficult circumstances.
Not only was the then coach-in-waiting attempting to train the game plan in a COVID-interrupted season, but John Worsfold was still technically the senior coach.
The Bombers were back at training on Monday.Credit:Getty Images
Rutten said finding the club’s identity would be important over the pre-season.
“I think it’s important that we do really establish who we are,” he said on Monday.
“That’s where we’re going to be spending a lot of time throughout the summer. We certainly need to improve parts of our game on field, but we also need to understand and give the players and the coaches and everyone here a really good understanding of who we are and who we’re representing and the responsibility that it is to be part of Essendon.
“That will all unfold over the summer, but I certainly can see the real desire and the want … there’s some really hard work and strong coaching and a disciplined way of playing is certainly what I’m going to be driving.”
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