One thing that I have been thinking about for a couple of years while watching the Essendon affiliated VFL teams, (previously Bendigo Bombers, now Essendon Reserves) is the opportunity the club has within its reserves team.
First of all the Bendigo Bombers. While there were some elements of this affiliation that worked well, it largely was extremely poor interms of the partnership with the Essendon Football club. There was confusion over the playing roles of AFL listed players. The VFL listed players trained separately in Bendigo to the AFL listed players. There were even times team mates were meeting for the first time on game day.
Yet there has been relatively decent success that has come from the development of the VFL players from this affiliation. With Stewy Crameri being the biggest name. Essendon never really took advantage of this with recruiting Bendigo players (Crameri & Atkinson aside). Yet other clubs saw the potential in a few of these players, and recruited them under our nose. (Dickson, Dunnell, Z. O’Brien, Redpath, Campbell, to name a few)
Now as a stand alone club, the potential is massive. After watching the footage Anthony Tippungwuti being told that he will be Rookie listed, it just re-affirms my belief that there is so much we could benefit & gain from the reserves list.
First of all, the AFL Rookie list has always been a squad of speculative players who are very likely going to amount to nothing. The failure rate is high. Yet we always have hope because we’ve seen the likes of Rioli, Peverill, Lovett, etc.
It’s time we start using the Reserves list as a pathway for players to get on the Essendon FC Rookie list.
- The Essendon list managers meet with each VFL player, and talk them through what areas of their game they need to work on, to get an opportunity on the rookie list
- The club make it clear to anyone around the country, 'If you’re aged between 18-25, and want to play for the Essendon football club, you need to try out for the VFL squad.
- The Essendon rookie list is only used on Essendon VFL listed players unless; they are a father son, a young young player has slipped through the national draft, a VFL positional player hasn’t met the KPI’s and we need a certain type.
This gives the recruiters the opportunity to see how much the players have improved and given the recruiters an insight of their work ethic on the training track and during games. The VFL players know the Essendon FC game style and The coaches also find out about a players character.
We could really set the standard amongst the AFL in this area of recruiting. It would improve the success rate of the rookie list. The rookies getting drafted are ready to play AFL. And they have been given enough seasons to get their professionalism to the standard needed. It also gives us the opportunity to take risks on certain players who have amazing talent but might have personal challenges in their life, without being under the AFL media spotlight.