Thorburn had been leading the club wide review that saw staff and external stakeholders interviewed about the club and the search for the new CEO before suddenly becoming a candidate.
Welsh said he respected the former CEO’s decision, but the club could not dwell upon what unfolded after he was given a choice between remaining with the Bombers or as chair of City on a Hill.
“Things weren’t perfect and it did not work out as planned but both parties have moved on quickly and I can only wish Andrew the best in the future,” Welsh said.
The successful businessman and former Bombers’ player said he had read Little’s response to whether a board challenge was possible. Welsh said he had enormous respect for Little and he knew that they wanted the same thing which is “what is best for Essendon” but that would not be achieved through an attempt to unseat the board.
“The club needs stability, the club needs unity. We have got a great opportunity ahead of us and the board that I am sitting on is 100 percent committed to seeing that change through,” Welsh said.
“It is hard. These things aren’t easy and there are things that happen along the way that you wish didn’t and other things that work really well, but change of this size to set this football club up for the next era is not going to be easy. We just want everyone who wants the club to be great again to be unified and stable.”
He also addressed James Hird’s unsuccessful attempt to return as Bombers’ coach with the premiership captain and former coach presenting to the coaching subcommittee as one of five candidates for the job. Welsh said he respected the fact Hird was disappointed not to get the role but he applauded him for the courage he showed to put his hat back in the ring in applying for the job.
“That was a fantastic step for him. I would love to see James get back into a coaching environment full time and work through as an assistant coach because he will be a terrific coach in the future if that is what he wants to do,” Welsh said. “As a person around the club the door is always open for James. He’s a bloody good bloke who makes people feel really comfortable around him.”
Scott’s appointment, however, provides fresh hope that clarity and purpose can be rediscovered with Welsh impressed with the former North Melbourne coach’s outlook when the pair caught up on Monday.
Their focus is now forward looking with the board already boosting resources devoted to development with Travis Cloke and Michael Hurley appointed and the position of head of development being advertised.
Welsh said the development of players at Essendon has fallen well short of industry standards in the past decade, but it would be a priority under Scott.
He said too heavy a focus was placed on attracting and retaining talent, which the club had done well, and too little on ensuring they developed that talent into long-term, consistent Essendon players with the development programs stretched beyond capacity because they were under-resourced.
“Players were getting Rising Star nominations, which was supposed to be a tick, but that wasn’t development. That [nomination] was based on talent and those players would go back to the VFL or get injured and not play the rest of the year,” Welsh said.
“We have to make sure that area is fully supported and those in that area are not stretched in the way that they have been for a long time.”
They will appoint a head of development and a head of football performance.
“We want to build a world-class development program,” Welsh said. “Our VFL has got to be treated as a university for our AFL and not have part-time bits and pieces. We need full-time people in those programs because that has been a massive deficiency for us.
“Things aren’t going to change overnight and there is hard work to do but I am totally confident in what I have seen from the draft report that it focuses on the right areas to get this club back into a good position,” Welsh said.
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