Dons keen to move forward down back
June 9, 2017 10:17 AM
ESSENDON is in the market for a defensive playmaker in the mould of out-of-contract stars Jason Johannisen and Jasper Pittard, says coach John Worsfold.
With veterans James Kelly and Brent Stanton in the twilight of their careers, and youngsters Andrew McGrath, Conor McKenna and rookie Ben McNiece still developing, the Bombers are looking for an experienced rebounder who can break the lines off half-back.
Bulldog Johannisen resumed contract talks with the premiers recently after the Norm Smith medalist had previously announced he wanted to wait until season's end to discuss a new deal.
Pittard told AFL.com.au in April that he sees his future at Port Adelaide, but was waiting for a new collective bargaining agreement to be reached between the AFL and the AFL Players' Association before re-signing.
When asked about Johannisen and Pittard on SEN on Friday morning, Worsfold said both fitted the bill on what the club was looking for.
"I would say a really clean, quick, strong rebounding half-back would be a strong addition to our squad," Worsfold said.
"Ben McNiece is on the rookie list, Conor McKenna is coming along nicely and Andy McGrath is already showing glimpses of how he's going to be able to win the footy and rebound as well.
"Adding another one into the mix with Brent Stanton and James Kelly at their age, having another (good) kick coming through (half-back) and come straight into the line-up would be handy."
While he admitted the Bombers are in a hurry to get some run out of the backline, Worsfold called for patience with second-year defender Aaron Francis.
The intercept-mark specialist has only played five games in two seasons after being taken with pick six in the 2015 NAB AFL Draft.
The premiership coach said the 19-year-old was developing "brilliantly", and the Bomber faithful would see more of the South Australian at senior level later in the season.
"He's going to be a very good player, and the fact he's not in (the senior team) and dominating games right at the moment is not a concern for us," Worsfold said.
"At VFL level, it’s just his overall ability to compete with the size of the guys he's going to play on for the full 120 minutes.
"We're really keen to develop him as an inside midfielder, and we're putting a lot of time (into him playing there in the VFL).
"He can certainly impact the game as a forward, but as an intercept backman, that is most likely where we'll see him play a fair bit of footy in the next couple of years."