New coach or not, Essendon need direction

Michael DiFabrizio Columnist

By Michael DiFabrizio, Michael DiFabrizio is a Roar Expert

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    Matthew Knights during the AFL Round 03 match between the Carlton Blues and the Essendon Bombers at the MCG, Melbourne.

    Matthew Knights during the AFL Round 03 match between the Carlton Blues and the Essendon Bombers at the MCG, Melbourne.

    Even if Matthew Knights is replaced at the end of the season, a prospect that’s becoming increasingly likely, those at Essendon desperately need to sit down and have a good hard look at their club.

    Make no mistake, the idea of getting rid of Knights is looking more sensible by the week. Losing at home to a side stuck on the bottom of the ladder, as the Bombers did against West Coast over the weekend, hardly helps his cause.

    Neither does the fact Essendon have conceded more points than any other team this season.

    Neither does the fact Mark Williams is now on the market, as is Dean Laidley.

    Neither does the fact the Essendon chairman, David Evans, failed to guarantee his future – after already labelling a finals appearance as a “par result” for this season.

    And neither does James Hird’s post-game comments, for that matter, especially after the criticism from Matthew Lloyd and Scott Lucas earlier in the year.

    But changing the coach simply cannot be the only course of action the club takes this off-season. In fact, determining the coach should be secondary to getting on top of a few, far more pressing, issues.

    A number of comments made by Evans suggest the club holds an overly-optimistic view of where the team is at and where it’s going.

    This off-season, Essendon need to get realistic. They need to drop the talk of par results and what year they’ll start contending. They need to figure out where they are really at, where they’re going and, most important of all, how they are going to get there.

    They also need to figure out how to navigate two years of compromised drafts. Trading one or two senior players in return for Gold Coast or GWS draft picks wouldn’t seem like the worst idea.

    It may seem a bit drastic, or to some it may seem unnecessary, but one look at the stockpile of young talent the Bombers possess shows how important it is for the club to not waste these next few years.

    Paddy Ryder is 22. Tayte Pears is 20. Michael Hurley is 19. David Zaharakis is 20. Travis Colyer is 18. Jake Melksham is 18. Scott Gumbleton is 21. There are others, some recently-drafted, that are also young and filled with potential.

    Plus, certain members of the “older guard” aren’t all that old. Captain and star Jobe Watson is just 25, for example.

    It may not seem like it right at this minute, but a great team can be built around these players. It’s the responsibility of the club as a whole – not just the coach – to not squander the opportunity.

    The 26,991 attendance figure from Saturday night – the lowest crowd for a Bombers game at Etihad Stadium, once the club’s fortress – shows that the fans expect more.

    Let’s just hope the club reacts not with a knee-jerk reaction, but with a measured and considered response that will put them back on track.

    Michael DiFabrizio
    Michael DiFabrizio

    Michael DiFabrizio is based in Mildura, Victoria. He has been an expert columnist at The Roar since 2009, leading to appearances on ABC News 24 and in the Age. Follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelDiFab.

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    The Crowd Says (20)

    • Roar Guru

      July 21st 2010 @ 7:54am
      mds1970 said | July 21st 2010 @ 7:54am | ! Report

      The Bombers made the finals last year, even though they lost more games than they won and were cannon fodder for the Crows in their final. But qualifying for the top 8 was an illusion – it created the impression that the Bombers were a club on the rise; but 2010 has been a harsh reality check.
      Even this year they started OK, but any semblance of form and confidence has well and truly gone out the window. A circuit-breaker to stop the sense of doom and gloom around the club is desperately needed. Knights isn’t the only person who will be battling to save his career over the last few rounds of the season.

      • Columnist

        July 21st 2010 @ 8:42am
        Michael DiFabrizio said | July 21st 2010 @ 8:42am | ! Report

        That’s true, mds. Making the finals did nothing but add to the optimism levels at the club, as it would at every club I’d expect. Maybe the fact they made it with less than the usual number of required wins should have been a warning sign, as should the fact they did it with Lloyd and Lucas, and Andrew Lovett for that matter, who are hardly instantly replaceable.

    • Roar Guru

      July 21st 2010 @ 8:10am
      Redb said | July 21st 2010 @ 8:10am | ! Report

      Yes it’s terrible at the moment, doom and gloom. Knights is mediocre at best and needs to go at seasons end with a full and frank review of the club’s list an coaching direction.

      The darkest hour is just before dawn – We are Essendon!

      • Roar Guru

        July 21st 2010 @ 11:57am
        Michael C said | July 21st 2010 @ 11:57am | ! Report

        marshmallows, the lot of ’em.

        the Rooboys will put ’em in their place this week……..

        …..well, actually, I don’t like it when we go in as ‘favorites’.

        • July 21st 2010 @ 1:12pm
          Doughboy said | July 21st 2010 @ 1:12pm | ! Report

          Dons losing brings me joy! Keep it up Knighter!

          • Roar Guru

            July 21st 2010 @ 2:55pm
            Redb said | July 21st 2010 @ 2:55pm | ! Report

            Is that you Mick Malthouse?

    • July 21st 2010 @ 9:29am
      Mathew said | July 21st 2010 @ 9:29am | ! Report

      Knights’ selections are the most puzzling thing for me. Always chopping and changing. Shattering a bloke’s confidence by dropping him, yet expecting him to tear it up in the VFL as a response. How does Brent Prismall go from knocking down the door of the premiers to being on the outer at Essendon? And why isn’t Houli getting a game? Why does Quinn keep getting games? So many questions…

      • Roar Guru

        July 21st 2010 @ 9:37am
        Redb said | July 21st 2010 @ 9:37am | ! Report

        Agree on Houli, Prismal this year has been good at times, but doesnt do the hard things. As for Quinn it’s hard to find your feet and confidence when the rest of the side is being over run. He played in both Crows games when Essendon was getting flogged, his mistakes under pressure were crucified at the time.

        Knights is just not the kind of bloke you’d charge out of a trench for. His game plan is too superficial, skills training poor, recruitment and selection decisions riddled with mistakes.

        • July 21st 2010 @ 10:00am
          TrueBomber said | July 21st 2010 @ 10:00am | ! Report

          What about Jarrod Atkinson? Struggles a bit under pressure, but his dare and dash from the half back line makes up for his occasional mistakes. And the likes of Henry Slattery and Sam Lonergan continually getting games — despite not being up to AFL standard — makes it all the more frustrating. Houli was BOG again last week in the VFL, so hopefully he gets to play the season out in the seniors.

          However, Prismall has been horrid this year. He has had his chances, but looks like he has lost all confidence.

          • Roar Guru

            July 21st 2010 @ 10:34am
            Redb said | July 21st 2010 @ 10:34am | ! Report

            Totally agree on Atkinson, love the way he takes them on off half back, but obviously does not do enough running/hard things. It is up to the coach to get the best out of his players, Essendon needs more grunt and Atkinson certainly has a crack.

            • Roar Guru

              July 21st 2010 @ 12:38pm
              Michael C said | July 21st 2010 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

              a whole bunch of kids have to be fast tracked to 50 games. Simple as that.

              Dustin Fletcher will NOT be part of the next Essendon premiership, but, I guess is good for Hooker and Pears to learn off (when they can get on the track).

              The Don’s structure fails completely sans Hille.

              Midfield just not up to it.

              This year is now a write off – – perhaps they just need to ‘tank’ (for the number 4 pick??),…..I mean, ‘develop’ their list!!!

          • July 22nd 2010 @ 10:43am
            stevebb said | July 22nd 2010 @ 10:43am | ! Report

            Jarrod Atkinson’s continued absence is my biggest frustration re the continued selection debacle.
            Knights has never HAD the Bomber faithful; he exudes the very opposite of leadership, strength, inspiration and motivation.
            The mere fact EFC chose to elevate the coach of the seconds to the AFL reeked of doom and gloom from the start — the fact it was Knights just made it doomier (sorry) and gloomier…

            • Roar Guru

              July 22nd 2010 @ 10:45am
              Redb said | July 22nd 2010 @ 10:45am | ! Report

              Yeah really enjoyed the way he described this week as fabulous for the Essendon Football Club – your a dope Knights!

      • Columnist

        July 21st 2010 @ 10:50am
        Michael DiFabrizio said | July 21st 2010 @ 10:50am | ! Report

        I’ve also been wondering about Houli, Mathew. Seems strange he’s struggling to get a game. Prismall was mentioned in Rohan Connolly’s piece in The Age on Monday, which is worth a read – http://www.theage.com.au/afl/afl-news/bomber-rabble-needs-to-return-to-decisive-footy-20100718-10g6q.html

    • July 21st 2010 @ 9:39am
      Art Sapphire said | July 21st 2010 @ 9:39am | ! Report

      I reckon the writing is on the wall. Keep Knights and Essendon will stand to lose over $1 million dollars in revenue as membership numbers will drop. A change of coach will keep membership numbers up and pay for Knight’s compensation.
      The board at Essendon at season’s end should put their hand up, admit they made a mistake, cut their losses and appoint a new coach.

      • July 21st 2010 @ 10:01am
        TrueBomber said | July 21st 2010 @ 10:01am | ! Report

        Agreed.

      • Columnist

        July 21st 2010 @ 10:44am
        Michael DiFabrizio said | July 21st 2010 @ 10:44am | ! Report

        Not a bad way of looking at it, Art. Knights definitely seems to have lost the Bomber faithful, so you’d have to think the effect on memberships would weigh on the board’s mind.

    • July 21st 2010 @ 10:12am
      Richard said | July 21st 2010 @ 10:12am | ! Report

      Knights has clearly lost it with the Essendon fans. At least that’s the impression I got talking with Essendon fans around me at the last Dons game I attended. His demeanour at the West Coast game was interesting. He seemed to display contempt for his players; certainly frustration. There seems to me, albeit an outsider, that there is a gulf between Knights and the players. If so, that’s a very difficult position from which to recover. Could be he’ll go the same way as Kevin Rudd? Essendon management handled the dispatch of Sheeds and the appointment of his replacement very poorly and they are damaging a great club as a result.

    • Roar Rookie

      July 21st 2010 @ 11:11am
      Phil Zammit said | July 21st 2010 @ 11:11am | ! Report

      Good article, I think Essendon will indeed have a good hard look at where they are at at the end of the year.

      It was always going to be tough coming off the Sheedy era no matter who took over the reigns. Especially as Essendon stuffed up its recruiting/drafting in the 99 to 01 period, which explain why the Bombers have so few quality players in the 27/28 year old range; while the recruiting in the couple of years was only marginally better. Its only been in the 4 or 5 years the drafting has got back on track, and with the likes of Pears, Hooker, Ryder, Hurley and Gumbleton Essendon at least has a potential quality spine to build around – but desperately needs a quality midfielder to stand up.

      Taking on Matthew Knights was a huge gamble – and its become fairly clear in the last few weeks it did not pay off. At the end of the year I think the Club will admit it got it wrong, and Knights will be asked to leave. I also think the rest of the coaching staff needs to go as well – Lets face it most of them appear to have had successfully succeeded in their jobs either!

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