Essendon CEO Xavier Campbell has explained the numerous steps the club took before confirming their interest in signing disgruntled former Western Bulldogs forward Jake Stringer.
The 2015 All-Australian was one of the fascinations of the trade period, after a slew of off-field issues became public knowledge. An ugly breakup with the Bulldogs allowed the Bombers to swoop, securing Stringer’s services for picks 25 and 30 in the upcoming national draft.
However, Campbell says it wasn’t a decision that was in the Dons’ foresight, and it wasn’t one made without the necessary due diligence.
“It was something that when it was flagged by [list manager] Adrian [Dodoro], it moved really quickly because of his situation at the Bulldogs…I wouldn’t say it was something that we had necessarily been proactively looking at,” he told SEN Breakfast.
“I met with Jake one-on-one early and I probably met with him two-to-three times after that, one in a group setting and twice just one-on-one. I wanted to know him more as a person, and what his motivations were. I wanted to know how he has viewed the last few years and why he thought things hadn’t been quite at the level where he wanted them to be, and I wanted to know what he thought he could have done better.
“Jake is one of many discussions; I met with his parents a couple of times as well. Jake was dealing with a lot of complex issues and he is living with his parents at the moment at the Docklands, and it was about understanding a bit more about it from their perspective.
“It was all about collecting data and information, and I reckon we spoke to 10-12 people in relation to understanding more about Jake’s situation. The bottom line is you want to be comfortable that he was what he was saying he wanted to be. Where he wanted to go, he was absolutely committed to that. It’s something as an organisation that we take on.
“He met with the leadership group, he met with John [Worsfold] one-on-one, he met with a whole range of people and we felt comfortable at that point in time that Jake was a good addition to our football club.”
Despite the in-depth research and background checks Essendon conducted on Stringer, the CEO still conceded the acquisition could turn into a precarious situation.
“Anyone who comes in brings some sort of element of risk,” Campbell said.
“Having met with him that many times, we have spoken with so many people around him, we did perceive we wanted to reduce that risk. I think we got to the point where we did that.”
Stringer has played 89 games and kicked 160 goals since being drafted in 2012 with pick number five. The 23-year-old appeared in 16 matches in 2017, kicking 24 majors and averaging 12.4 disposals.