|Key Def||Gen Def||Mid||Mid/Fwd||Gen Fwd||Key Fwd||Ruck||Total|
Players In: Adam Saad, Jake Stringer, Devon Smith
Players Out: N/A
Retired/delisted: Jobe Watson, James Kelly, Brent Stanton, Craig Bird, Heath Hocking and Ben Howlett
Draft Picks: 48, 67, 81
What They Got/Lost:
From the first day of the trade period, it was all about the 3 S’s: Jake Stringer, Adam Saad and Devon Smith. Many people were sceptical of how the deals were going to get done, but some smart manoeuvring by Adrian Dodoro saw them all brought into the club in exchange for draft picks. This means that Essendon will enter the draft at the latest position out of any club with regards to their first pick, but with the perceived depth of this draft not being as strong as next year’s, the recruiting strategy may prove to be wise.
Each player has been recruited to fill a role. Jake Stringer will play more midfield time than he was getting at the Western Bulldogs, with an eye to develop more endurance over the off-season in order to make the permanent switch into the middle. Ditto with Devon Smith, with Essendon looking to strengthen their midfield after getting exposed in the elimination final against Sydney. Adam Saad adds more speed to the half-back line, which complements the Essendon game plan well, as he can play off the flanks along with Conor McKenna.
What they need:
Inside mids. Whilst the trade period was a success, Essendon’s list is still missing clearance specialists. The players brought in all will slot straight into the best 22, but there’s no-one in the side who inspires a lot of confidence in their inside ability. Against weaker teams, this deficiency was hidden due to fast ball movement, but it’s hard to win games against good teams when you don’t have the ball. This problem is somewhat exacerbated by the ruck division. Tom Bellchambers and Matthew Leuenberger are serviceable, but definitely aren’t in the top handful of rucks. A good year from both of them would help immensely.
Apart from that, they need to let go of the past, and write a new story. 2017 was arguably the last year with the Hird era hanging over it, with 2017’s final loss feeling like a transition from old to new. A finals win in 2018 would help not only appease supporters hungry for success, but also show the football world that Essendon isn’t mired in mediocrity like many currently (correctly) believe.
Finally, they need their spine to stand up. Hurley and Daniher both had standout years in 2017, and this helped to paper over some of the cracks that the midfield had. This needs to continue into 2018. If they both have subpar years, it’s hard to see Essendon repeating their finals appearance of this year, let alone bettering it. A clean bill of health will go a long way to helping out Essendon’s hopes in 2018.
On the radar:
Having given up most of their picks in order to bring in their sizeable draft haul, Essendon won’t have too much to choose from at pick 48, especially in a supposedly weaker draft. However, an option for them is bringing in Geelong Falcons midfielder Cassidy Parish, brother of Essendon midfielder Darcy Parish. Parish was lauded for his clearance work in the TAC Cup, and knew how to get the ball, something that Essendon will be looking to rectify in 2018. He also is a big game player, with a great performance in the Falcons’ preliminary final win against Dandenong. If they choose this path, hopefully, it works out even better than drafting the Merrett brothers.