The Curious Case of Essendon

The Curious Case of Essendon

As the Essendon membership campaign photos were released for 2019 it was very evident that the image the club wanted to share with its members was one of a very happy, joyous, Inclusive and harmonious club. You have players from the leadership group with their arms around each other and almost in a giggling state. It’s an image that has developed further and further since the saga. And you can see why…The Essendon Football Club took the biggest hit in AFL/VFL history and its brand at least externally was to put it bluntly…trashed.

The irony of the Saga for me was a then football department in 2011/12 totally understanding the club has gone way off the rails and required urgently an improved tougher, fitter, harder edge. We spoke to Ben Howlett recently and he mentioned the preseason of 2012 was by the most brutal he had encountered. This direction was spot on but the delivery of this as we later realised was poorly governed. This was the biggest shame for me of that time…what would have happened if Essendon did Govern the club well with that ruthless core message to the playing group? At that time, we had a Coach and President that wanted nothing short of on field ultimate success and were both extremely driven to get it. Hird had outlined clubs like West Coast and Collingwood at the time having systems in place that were far greater than Essendon and it was his role to get the club back to building a unique elite program that was Essendon owned(and yes within the rules as Hird would emphasise).

Despite the saga being in chaos mode in 2013 and 14 the results of this hard edge mantra from Hird was for all to see. In 2013 Essendon had a list that if you were completely honest…you could not really boast about but it had a chip on its shoulders that was able to overcome teams far more talented. The Captain was protective of his players but very animated in still achieving success despite outside noise….he was a man on a mission. Essendon twice went to WA for wins and I can remember an image of Ryder kicking the sealer against Fremantle and looking at the crowd with his finger over his lips to let them know that they can shut up now. Hurley had a fist full of McPhee’s jersey as they were fighting, he did not care that McPhee was an old mate….he was just focused on winning at all costs. It was uncompromising unsociable footy….and it was the first time since 2001 it had come from the Club.

This is why the saga has had a profound effect. Everything changed from 2015 onwards. To be honest I understand the Essendon thought process…we needed to re-brand ourselves for the positive….members are the life blood and we needed to make sure the club was seen as happy and united. It was required for that time. The cost to Essendon however was our long term on field success. Rightly or wrongly, we hired a coach to settle and comfort the club. We elevated a board member to now President who liked to operate quietly and with little controversy. Even in one of the worst losses in Essendon’s history you have the CEO refreshingly tweet his disappointment……24 hours later he had to apologise to the playing group. It was a sign of how much had changed internally. You felt from afar the Football Department focus became inferior to Optics, Marketing and Branding of a club coming out of a crisis. As a business man myself it has worked in terms of financial stability and membership numbers(which is important)……fans have believed the messaging and in the short term they liked the open and friendly nature of the club again. However, only now since 2018 onwards has the effects of not getting the Football department right come back to truly haunt the club. A Football GM must oversee critical areas such as youth development, fitness, conditioning, an experienced coaching group to achieve their own unique clear game plan and clear decisive game day tactics.

Back in 2011 Essendon set a 5 year Project to be cutting edge on their own terms……not look to copy other teams. In recent years Essendon has hired former Richmond GM Dan Richardson and defensive assistant coach Ben Rutten….the only issue is now the competition has caught up with Richmond and competing teams have developed their own strategies and not looked to just copy and hope it works. Am i saying Hird should coach again? Not necessarily. What the club realised in 2011 on its failings needs to be carried out again by either the current coach or anyone externally that can achieve this.

A full review of our Football Department and Management is likely required or inevitable if we continue to struggle. Our goal needs to be that Essendon creates its own success…we develop our own game plan that is unique to our list and our strengths. Our Leaders are strong in messaging on what is required. Club Management is bold in its messaging internally and externally. We develop players to become mentally and physically ready to take on anyone….instil a fearless and bold culture that we really don’t care about any other club or even AFL optics for that matter…our success will be governed by us…and no one else. Have a coach that says your reputation from here on means very little….how you carry out instructions, get yourself in peak condition, represent the club on match day is what determines selections.

To put it simply……no more playing mr nice guy Essendon

Scott McNeice


Well said Scooter

Good write up.

As I have asked a few times; did the club do a review at the end of last season? If so, what was the recommendations of this review, and have they been implemented?

For a club that keeps talking about Learning and improvement (which often comes across as an excuse for losses, or to lower supporters expectations after a win), it appears that we have learned nothing especially when we have made the same mistakes.

So it’s time to hold the club to account on their consistent communication of ‘learning and improvement’…

As such,we must know; what came out of the Football department review at the end of 2018, and if it’s been implemented?

Accurate write up mate.

Something I want to see if more agro at the contest. A felt like only a few blokes really through themselves at the contest, Stringer, Guelfi and Hurls. Some blokes look like they are happy to accept a pay check. Need someone who will get these guys fired up!

Spot on. We are not ruthless anymore, we are soft and easy and I reckon the other clubs know that.
We never hear from our president
We have a CEO who had to apologise for a tweet because he said it wasnt good enough
We have a coach who was a lion on the field and a ■■■■■ cat off the field.
I’ll back the captain, I reckon he is doing a good job.

I reckon this sort of softly softly approach breeds mentally weak people, things get too hard and they drop off. Probably a bit old school but I reckon it’s correct.

Agree we have become far too soft. As much as they annoy us Essendon needs a strong outspoken leader who demands onfield success like Eddie or Kennett. They do everything that they possibly can to advance their own club.

Unfortunately we don’t have that sort of leader but boy I wish we did. We may have had that person in Paul Little but his efforts were muted by dealing with the saga.

Another issue with the saga was that we promoted a young CEO too early. A stronger more experienced CEO would likely not have extended Worsfold’s contract when we did and would have demand a full footy department review last year.

It is fairly obvious we have critically under invested in the footy department by not bringing in enough high performing outsiders. We have far too many poorly performed assistant coaches, seemingly very ordinary fitness staff and a list manager that fell into the role and then has managed to keep his job for over 15 years - all of which is an absolute blight on our club.

We are soft. From the president all the way down to the playing group. Even the supporters in general have been very soft. At least some are now starting to find more of an edge

The majority of the ruthless/ nasty players we have , we’ve had to trade in


I look at the way the 2000 team played. This is why I would play,
Ambrose over Hartley,
Zerk over Marty,
Redman over Ridley,
Clarke over Langford,
Francis over Dea

We need strong leadership on each line. There are no runners available a lot of the time.
OK Heppel in the midfield.
Hooker in the backline. One of the best leaders at the club. BJ is not there anymore
The forward line lacks a leader, and organiser. Can we put Hooker in there?

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Echoing others here ‘we are soft’. It’s embarassing, to many passengers happy just being AFL footballers, success is optional to them.

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