AFL 2022: Essendon Bombers go back to their basics

Process. Your eyes are glazing over already. Bear with me, Essendon supporters: you’ve become adept at tolerance. Process is such a bureaucratic idea for such a romanticised pastime. But this time, it really mattered.

For most of their history, Essendon have had a reputation for solidarity, prudence and conservatism. For most of that history, this has served them well. The appointment of Sheedy as coach all those years ago might have looked radical, but it stood on a stable base.

Brad Scott in his North Melbourne days.Credit:Paul Rovere

In the 21st century, the Bombers have floundered in a most un-Essendon-like way. The supplements saga was the obvious and painful nadir. In the years since, they have exhausted themselves trying to regain their feet. The restlessness of the coteries did not help. Their footy suffered.

The botched attempt to land Clarkson, the indignity of Ben Rutten’s sacking and the decimation of board and staff looked to be a new low. In fact, it might have brought the club to its senses.


They followed a process until it played out. That’s not to say there weren’t plenty of other conversations at many levels. Footy folk talk to each other constantly. But even Scott said he would not have accepted the job if it had simply been thrown at him. He welcomed the process. Of course, he would say that!

Process takes football clubs to different places. Last year, it took Collingwood to Craig McRae, a novice, and Carlton to Michael Voss, recycling. The Blues’ crash-landing notwithstanding, these look to be inspired choices.

Brad and Chris Scott faced each other as AFL coaches for the first time in 2011.

Brad and Chris Scott faced each other as AFL coaches for the first time in 2011.Credit:Pat Scala

Process now has brought Essendon not to the Pope or Red Adair, but Brad Scott. He fits their specs. He’s second time around, which is not a bad thing. He says the game changes every four years, so what he did at North Melbourne matters only in that he is run in.

He’s not 33 now, but 46. He brings with him 10 years of senior coaching experience and three – the last three – working at the AFL. He knows the game inside and out. He’s intelligent and erudite. If he didn’t coach against his brother, he could always debate him.

At his introductory media conference, Scott was, well, sensible. He made no lofty promises. He would start by getting to know the people; all would flow from there. He praised the AFL, which was not so surprising; a minute ago, he was the AFL. Gotta love those umpires!

He won’t have set Essendon hearts racing, but they will have had enough of racing hearts. Confirmation that they’re still beating will do.

Essendon players look on during Brad Scott’s first press conference as coach on Friday.

Essendon players look on during Brad Scott’s first press conference as coach on Friday.Credit:Getty Images

As best can be ascertained from social media, Essendon people welcomed Scott’s appointment: not a neophyte, not a guru, no baggage, but a football coach.

President Barham took it as a good omen that not one of his various conversations with interested parties about coaching in the last two weeks had leaked; this from a long-standing senior media executive, but with his footy club cap firmly affixed.

“We want to go back to being a footy club,” Barham said. On Friday, the Bombers very nearly looked like one.

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