Essendon has bolstered its VFL list with the acquisition of some highly rated talent and the retention of some key players.
Former Geelong players Michael Luxford and Jock Cornell, along with former North Ballarat key forward Sam Hooper and South Bendigo’s 203cm ruckman Kieran Strachan join former Essendon AFL player Nick O’Brien as the fresh faces in the squad.
Luxford grew up playing basketball before joining the Cats in 2014. He played two senior games in 2015, including an AFL debut against Essendon.
Last season the 21 year old played 20 games in the VFL, averaged 17 disposals and kicked 15 goals.
“Michael spent three seasons on Geelong’s AFL List playing as a forward and midfielder,” VFL Operations Manager Ashley Brown said.
“At 187cm and 91kg Michael is a powerful player that can break lines with his speed and kicking penetration.”
Cornell spent last season on Geelong’s Rookie List and is the cousin of Dons forward Joe Daniher.
The 19 year old played 18 games for the Cats in 2016 and booted ten goals.
“Jock is a resilient, adaptable and versatile medium forward who reads the game extremely well and applies good forward-line pressure,” Brown said.
“At 188cm Jock can play in a variety of positions. He's a good kick at goal and was a member of the GWS Giants’ Academy before being drafted to Geelong.”
Hooper stands 192cm and is capable of playing either end of the ground.
Last season he topped North Ballarat’s goal kicking.
“Over the last few seasons Sam has been unlucky to have sustained some serious injuries however his training standards and form pre-Christmas has been very promising,” Brown said.
“Sam plays a very physical and contested style of football which will suit either end of the ground.”
Strachan, 20, won South Bendigo’s best and fairest last season and has impressive endurance and agility for a player of his size.
“Kieran is able to get involved in play regularly around the ground due to his mobility,” Brown said.
“He even beat quite a number of our midfielders in our recent two kilometre time trial.”
Reigning Best and Fairest winner Aaron Heppell and 2016 Best First Year player Nash Holmes will be back with the Bombers as the side pushes for a third straight finals appearance.
James Ferry returns after an injury interrupted 2016 season, alongside Bruno Laguda and Isaac Muller.
“Competition for spots on our list is very healthy and there will be quite a number of unlucky players who won’t be listed this season,” Brown said.
“The average age of our VFL list will be younger than previous seasons however I believe we are building a flexible and dynamic playing list built on speed, competitiveness and the desire to reach the highest level of football they can.”
The Bombers have locked in about half of their VFL list, with more announcements expected throughout the pre-season.