‘We’ve also won 16 premierships’: Rutten embraces quest for breakthrough

Essendon coach Ben Rutten has embraced the quest to end the Bombers’ 17-year finals win drought, pointing out that the barren run is part of the club’s history just like its 16 VFL/AFL premierships.

In his first season as senior coach, Rutten has the chance to end the Bombers’ run of outs when his side confronts the Western Bulldogs in an elimination final in Launceston next Sunday.

The Dons could regain several players for the clash, with Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Kyle Langford and Jye Caldwell all in the frame for the date with the Dogs.

Ben Rutten speaks to his team on Sunday. Credit:Getty

Essendon haven’t won an AFL final since beating Melbourne in 2004, and Rutten wasn’t shying away from the opportunity to snap that streak.

“That’s just something that comes with our footy club. We’ve also won 16 premierships,” Rutten said after the Bombers beat Collingwood at the MCG on Sunday.

“That’s part of being at the Essendon footy club, and part of what our players have really embraced throughout the course of the season is really embracing our season and reconnecting there.

“But they’re also really clear that this next chapter of our journey hasn’t been written yet.”

McDonald-Tipungwuti, Caldwell and Cale Hooker all played a scratch match this weekend and Rutten would not rule any of them out from returning to face the Dogs.

McDonald-Tipungwuti has missed two matches through personal reasons, with Rutten saying the club would consider the best way to deal with the small forward.

“We’re going to have to keep assessing. My job as a coach is to set him up to be successful,” he said.

Langford (hamstring) will be assessed during the week after missing three matches in a row.

The Bombers are likely to be boosted by a partisan crowd in Launceston, which will also host the Sydney-Greater Western Sydney elimination final on Saturday. The two qualifying finals will be played at Adelaide Oval, with Victorian sports minister Martin Pakula on Sunday acknowledging that the grand final was also slipping away because of the state’s COVID-19 situation.

“This current lockdown runs until September 2 and the grand final is scheduled for September 25, and it goes without saying that right now it looks problematic,” Pakula said.

“The idea that we’d have tens of thousands of people gathered in one place that soon [is hard to fathom] but, contrary to reports, we haven’t waved the white flag yet.

“I am in constant discussion with [AFL chief] Gillon McLachlan and the team at the AFL. The government, as well as doing what’s best for Victoria, are also keenly interested in the health of the AFL and what’s best for football.

“We would never seek to force the AFL to play the grand final in front of an empty stadium.”

The Dons beat Hawthorn in Launceston earlier in the season, with Rutten excited by the prospect of support again next weekend.

”The way our supporters down there and our members showed up to that game, it felt like a home game for us. We’re really encouraging all our Essendon supporters down there to get around, really support the game, which I know they will,” Rutten said.

Meanwhile, Collingwood caretaker coach Robert Harvey would not elaborate on whether he would apply for the full-time role, saying he would speak about his future with Pies football chief Graham Wright early in the week.

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