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Bombers are aiming high: experienced targets point to premiership ambitions

'Another factor at work for Essendon is the lack of draft picks.'

'Another factor at work for Essendon is the lack of draft picks.' Photo: Justin McManus


Essendon met with Paul Chapman early this week, before the Dons formally appointed Chappy's old coach, Mark Thompson, as the nightwatchman for season 2014.

That Bomber's Bombers are strongly considering Chappy is confirmation that, despite the disaster of 2013 and the AFL penalties, they haven't forsaken premiership contention in their Hird-less ''limbo'' year; the nightwatchman reckons he can get the runs, even though his stay at the crease will be brief.

Chapman is a barometer of where clubs see themselves. Only teams that consider themselves within striking distance of a premiership ought to consider him.

Carlton had been hot for Chappy, but the Blues were cooling on Friday, since the asking price - guaranteed money at above award rates ($300,000 plus) and the prospect of a second season - was a tad higher than they envisaged. Carlton has lost Eddie Betts and saw Chapman as a useful replacement who, unlike Eddie and the surviving Amigos, can manage spurts in the midfield. The logical solution for clubs chasing Chappy is to offer him what the industry calls a ''one-and-one'' contract - one year, more or less guaranteed, but a conditional second season that protects the club from the prospect of exploding hamstrings.

Essendon is more than merely discussing Chapman. Thompson wants the man who kicked the goal that ensured the 2009 premiership. The question is what Chapman will cost, and whether the Dons have higher priorities that could see Chapman end up elsewhere.

Nick Dal Santo is another player whom Essendon has been courting, in a gentle wrestle with North Melbourne, which has been the more aggressive suitor. Again, Dal Santo turns 30 next year and is not an ideal acquisition for a team that is aiming to finish eighth. He's a coat of varnish that could be the difference between a failing finalist and a polished premier - at least, that's the theory.

So, we have an interesting situation wherein the coach who is merely holding the fort in a ''gap year'' has designs on the top four. The Bombers were inside the four for much of the season, until suffering the now-customary late-season collapse.

If the Dons have blamed the 2013 fade out on the supplements scandal - ASADA fatigue that finally exhausted the players - then there's all the more reason why they would fancy themselves to be much closer to contention than ninth.

Another factor at work for Essendon is the lack of draft picks. A club that cannot do swaps involving picks - without first giving up a player or two - can still gain free agents. Free agency enables the Bombers to weather the loss of draft picks in the short-term, provided they can pick the right players at the right price. Stewart Crameri should eventually land them pick No.22 from the Bulldogs, in a negotiation that has taken longer than the ALP's leadership ballot.

Chapman is an unfettered free agent, while, due to arcane workings of his contract's ''trigger'' clauses, Dal Santo can only become a free agent if the Saints agree to make him one. St Kilda, though, wants more compensation than the second-round pick Dal Santo would likely bring via the free-agency system.

The Bombers might not end up acquiring much, but the important point is that they aren't treating 2014 as a gap year. They are having a serious crack at good players - and by association - the top four next year.

St Kilda has been even more aggressive in trading, though it is coming from the completely opposite vantage point to Essendon, North and even Carlton. The Saints' willingness to sell almost anyone over 28 - and 24-year-old ruckman Ben McEvoy - derives from their recognition that they're nowhere near a flag, and can afford to make brutal calls on experienced players who won't be part of the planned renaissance. Sam Fisher remains in the frame for Greater Western Sydney, Dal Santo is likely to go and McEvoy has already been traded to the Hawks in a surprising, covert operation.

For all the bluffing and economy with the truth that defines the post-season trading, we're getting a vivid picture of a deeper truth - namely, where various clubs see themselves.

20 comments so far

  • Essendon stocking up on experienced players from outside the club.
    They will need them.

    Date and time
    October 12, 2013, 2:56PM
    • Not sure it is a good idea to get Chappy, but I do like the idea that a Club which has been done over unproven accusations goes on to win the prem. They're onto a winner in looking for outrageous sponsorship too.
      Somehow they've got to keep thy're goal-scoring average even across the season.

      Date and time
      October 12, 2013, 4:03PM
      • Sorry, I meant to include "without Hird" who, while I don't believe he managed to do anything illegal, only failed because of sheer dumb mismanagement.

        Date and time
        October 12, 2013, 4:09PM
      • James Hird is still coaching this team, they would of asked his opinion on who should coach and what sort of players he wants when he gets back.

        Listening to the announcement of the coaches and listening to both say they have spoken to James. James Hird got banned for any involvement with the bombers, so should that mean no contact with any member of the bombers team.

        Please release the ASADA report soon so we know whats going on next year.

        Date and time
        October 12, 2013, 4:22PM
      • @Chris.

        Who are you to determine who from Essendon can talk to Hird, and in what capacity? The AFL can't regulate personal relationships between long term friends, and after everything that happened in 2013 I seriously doubt EFC would be silly enough to breach the conditions of Hird's ban.

        The list management at EFC is a fairly straight forward matter for Bomber to handle and I doubt he needs to talk to Hird about it. After all they've been working together on the list and game plan for 3 years, Bomber wouldn't need to be a brain surgeon to carry it on without Hird in 2014. Bomber said as much in the press conference when he confirmed that he wouldn't be doing any major overhauls to the game plan for the coming season.

        I understand that the resolution of the Essendon issue must be difficult for you to accept, like a form of separation anxiety. I'm sure you got a lot of milage out of it this year winding up your Essendon mates around the water cooler or down at the pub, but now it's over and you're going to have to find a new issue to climb on your soapbox about (might I suggest the COLA?). To make matters worse, all indications are that there is nothing coming from the ASADA investigation for you to get excited about either.

        Might a I suggest you do what everyone else is doing and move on.

        Date and time
        October 12, 2013, 6:04PM
      • Jimihk, I didn't get past the first sentence. What dribble. Are you one of the "in Hird we trust" suckers?

        Date and time
        October 12, 2013, 10:52PM
      • Bored, not at all. Don't actually want him back at the club, but maybe if you read the post you'd see it's not actually about defending Hird.

        Date and time
        October 13, 2013, 1:37PM
    • seems to me the bombers have been high for the last couple of years

      Date and time
      October 12, 2013, 4:05PM
      • With Crameri all but lost to the Bulldogs, the Bombers should go after Podsiadly. So often this year Essendon didn't have a strong marking forward.

        Forest Hill
        Date and time
        October 12, 2013, 6:15PM
        • I am wondering how Thompson can be fined for his part in the drug scandal but still allowed to be senior coach next year. Am I missing something?

          Date and time
          October 12, 2013, 7:17PM

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