ESSENDON might face a more difficult road to September than some competitors this year due to the lopsided draw, but it says it has no complaints about the schedule and will make no excuses.
Unlike Adelaide and North Melbourne, which have been drawn to play Greater Western Sydney and Gold Coast twice each and have been handed a significant advantage, Essendon plays the struggling expansion teams only once each and, as such, arguably faces a harder task to maintain or better its eighth placing last year. Even Sydney, which finished sixth, gets to play GWS twice and is virtually assured of an ''extra'' win and a likely boost in percentage.
But Essendon chairman David Evans said the club had ''no excuses'' and had a culture of not complaining about the fixture, which the Dons were happy with.
David Evans. Photo: Paul Rovere
''The draw's the draw. You get served up who you're going to play,'' said Evans. ''You start planning for the fixture and, no excuses, you turn up to play who you're drawn to play against and you hopefully get to a position where you're going deep in September.
''Honestly, this is very much part of our culture at the place, we really don't discuss the draw. Obviously, [we] have things we put to the AFL right at the start like every other club, like where we'd like to play and when and all that sort of stuff. As you know, you get some input into that but we were pretty happy with our draw.''
Evans agreed with the notion that a financially helpful schedule was not necessarily an easier ''football'' draw. Essendon is assured of playing Collingwood and Carlton twice each year - and it gate shares with both clubs - in what has turned out to be a more challenging fixture due to the strong on-field position of its major rivals.
The Dons also play North, Richmond and Port Adelaide twice this year, but don't have the huge boost of two games against the expansion teams or Melbourne.
The club's major off-field initiative - its move to a new administrative and training base at Melbourne Airport - is on track in terms of planning and funding, the Dons having already raised about $18.5 million of the $25 million that their new base will cost.
Evans said they were on track to be training at the airport by November. ''We've got to raise about $25 million and we're about 18 and a half at the moment.''
The club received about $6 million from the federal government for its new airport facility and raised an impressive $5 million or so from high net-worth benefactors and a further $1 million from members and coteries, with the AFL also contributing. ''We've got a fair way to go and we want to deliver it without debt,'' said Evans. The Dons are still sweating on whether they will receive state government funding for the facility, which is based around their pitch for multicultural and indigenous programs, as well as work with the Sudanese community. The club has started to look for a naming-rights sponsor as well. ''We're hoping to have something tied up by the time the boys start training in November,'' he said.