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Paul Little: We are sorry

Watch the full statement from Essendon chairman Paul Little addressing the supplements scandal and penalties imposed on the club.

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Shaking off the pain of lost draft picks is something Essendon has done before - recently and reasonably well. List manager Adrian Dodoro was in his second year as head recruiter when the club was stripped of its first two picks in the 1999 draft as a consequence of salary cap breaches made several years earlier, and he did a good job making the most of a demoralising situation.

The Bombers used their first pick that year, No.40, on David Hille — and he has been an important player for many years.

David Hille was Essendon's first pick in the 1999 draft after the Bombers were thrown out of the first two rounds.

David Hille was Essendon's first pick in the 1999 draft after the Bombers were thrown out of the first two rounds. Photo: Paul Rovere

The club redrafted John Barnes with its third choice, and he was a meaningful member of the 2000 side that lost just one game for the season. Essendon's second pick, Marcus Pickett, did not work out but its fourth, Robert Forster-Knight, played some handy games.

He will help the club negotiate the tricky next two years, as part of its recruiting team. It was missed first-round picks in the next couple of years (James Davies, Shane Harvey) that held the Bombers back more than anything that happened as a direct result of the 1999 penalties.

Being stripped of these new picks has the potential to hurt — a lot. While this year's draft pool is unspectacular, there are some excellent players available in the first dozen, and next year's group looks even better, at this early stage.

The draft order is only just starting to get back to something resembling ''normal'', after several years of being affected by the entry of Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney, so Essendon will not only miss out on some of the relief every other club else will enjoy, but have to hope the Suns and Giants don't go zooming past them as their own group reaches full maturity.

As encouraging as the Bombers' list looks, it still needs to add to its midfield depth, find a small forward and keep improving in other areas if it is going to win a premiership.

The good news is that the current group is a very good one. Best be whacked when you are in the top eight than at the dangling down of the ladder, a la Carlton 10 years ago.

Dyson Heppell, Jake Carlisle, Michael Hurley, David Zaharakis, Jake Melksham, Michael Hibberd, Joe Daniher and others are talented players, and form a fairly young core. Jobe Watson has signed a four-year contract extension and will be around a while yet, as will Brendon Goddard.

That clubs can count upgraded rookies as one or more of their compulsory three draft selections is helpful, too. Lauchlan Dalgleish has shown some promise in his first two matches, and Cory Dell'Olio and Ariel Steinberg could be pushed up if Essendon can't find anything it likes late in the draft. The Bombers have a bigger recruiting department than they did back in 1999 and have made some good late picks in recent years, with Stewart Crameri, Tom Bellchambers, Hibberd and Mark Baguley proving money well spent. They'll need to find more where they came from.

The other important difference from 1999 is that — via free agency and trading — Essendon gets an opportunity to minimise the damage the stripped picks could cause. Whether it has room in its salary cap for any decent free agents, given the expensive acquisition of Goddard last year and the pay rises it has had to hand its young improvers, is another question. And other clubs may be frightened off dealing with them, given the ASADA investigation is ongoing and players aren't off the hook yet.

But there is definite interest out there in Bellchambers and Crameri, and Tayte Pears and Scott Gumbleton will appeal to other clubs, too.

Deciding to trade any of those players, particularly the first pair, would sting. It would mean bolstering its young group comes at a significant cost.

But that the option is there means Essendon has, despite the far-from-perfect circumstances its recruiting department has been plonked in, held onto a small bit of control.