Robert Walls has ripped into Essendon over the Bombers' "really poor decision" to sign Ryan Crowley as a top-up player.
Ryan Crowley a Bomber
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Ryan Crowley a Bomber
Former Fremantle Docker Ryan Crowley signs with the Essendon Bombers. Vision: Bomber TV
Crowley, 31, began training with the Bombers on Wednesday, the first of 10 replacement players to be signed by the club following the suspension of 12 current Bombers last week by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The ex-Fremantle stopper didn't appear at AFL level in 2015 after being banned for taking a banned substance after the Dockers' game against Greater Western Sydney in round 17, 2014.
But while Walls said he liked the signature of the club's second top-up - former Geelong star James Kelly - the 1987 Carlton premiership coach was scathing in his criticism of Crowley, whom he described as "nowhere near the mark as far as a footballer goes."
Moreover, Walls thought the idea that the Bombers would replace players unavailable due to a drug suspension with a player who had served a similar penalty was a poor look.
"I think the bottom line is, Essendon are in this situation and the first player they've added to their list is a player who has had 12 months out because he took a banned substance on match day. It just doesn't add up," Walls told SEN on Wednesday.
"I'd be very concerned [with how selecting him could be perceived]. I would have been so concerned that I wouldn't have touched Crowley at all.
"If you're an Essendon supporter you have to be thinking 'are they in the real world, do they realise what this club has gone through the last three or four years?' "
But Walls' issue with Crowley's signature was not restricted to perception. He also doubted whether the Bombers needed a veteran tagger given they were likely to be hovering around the bottom of the ladder.
"There is no future for Ryan Crowley at Essendon. This is just a stopgap for one year … I think by playing Crowley you are going to deny a couple of players the opportunity [to play games]. I want to know who is making that decision. To say that he is an experienced player with a strong body, well that doesn't wash with me.
"What are Essendon about this coming season? I'd like to think they are going to give young players opportunity. We know they are not going to have a lot of success, that's OK — it's a given — but do you want to just have shutdown players running around for you in the Essendon jumper?"
Essendon have until March 15 to sign their full allotment of top-up players.