With the announcement Bombers star Zach Merrett will “wait” to decide on his future at the Hangar, he’s now become a hot topic for free agency rumours and put Essendon’s season under the spotlight with perhaps a higher intensity than previously.
The Bombers join the other ten clubs whose seasons are over after a solid defeat by West Coast in an elimination final.
Was making the finals enough to see Essendon honour John Worsfold’s contract for 2020?
On the face of it, eighth was the Bombers’ true position. As they did two years ago, Essendon had 12 wins and ten losses and finished eighth at the end of the home-and-away season. They beat only two teams that finished in the top eight in 2019: Brisbane in Round 4 and Greater Western Sydney in Round 15, and also had two close games against Collingwood.
However, two years ago they did not have Adam Saad, Devon Smith, Jake Stringer or Dylan Shiel.
In fairness, they did not have Devon Smith after Round 8 and the fact that their leading current goal scorer, Joe Daniher (number 28 on the Bombers’ all-time goalscorers list) played only four games for seven goals was a huge loss for the year.
Other goal scorers stepped up, Orazio Fantasia became a centurion during the year, and – courtesy of two goals in the elimination final – Anthony McDonald-Tipungwati also made it to 100 goals joining Brian Walsh who after six years with Carlton joined the club in 1975 and kicked his 100 goals for the Bombers in four years.
Len Webster, who captained the club in 1938, was a ruckman recruited from Loch who worked as a fireman. He played for the club for 12 years and also kicked exactly 100 goals.
Cale Hooker, with just four goals for the year as he is now playing as a backman, also made it into the Dons’ top 100 goal scorers finishing equal 99th with Justin Blumfield.
A similar thing happened in Essendon’s top 100 game players of all time. Mark Baguley, who came to the club in 2012 as a mature aged recruit from Frankston, had shared 100th place on the Bombers’ all-time top 100 game players list with Courtney Dempsey since Round 11 this year.
When he played his final game in Round 21 (he has now retired) he ousted Dempsey from the top 100 and now sits in equal 98th position with premiership ruck rover Ken Timms from the 1950s and 1960s and 2000 premiership player Adam Ramanauskas, whose career was interrupted by recurring cancer.
Baguley will slip down the top 100 list in 2020 if Tom Bellchambers and Zach Merrett both string together a number of games, but he will still be sitting at number 100 at the end of the season and get to enjoy the top 100 players function for at least the next two years.
Essendon finished the year with four top 100 elite game players still playing. David Zaharakis (who missed the elimination final) and the three Hs: Dyson Heppell, Hooker and Michael Hurley. They also have four quality imports, the Ss: Smith, Shiel, Stringer and Adam Saad.
Add to this a number of players whose best is still in front of them: Matt Guelfi, Andrew McGrath, Darcy Parish, Mitch Brown, McDonald-Tipungwati, Conor McKenna and Jayden Laverde and debutantes Zac Clarke, Brayden Ham and Will Snelling, and you have the nucleus of a very good team capable of going deeper in the finals than they did in in 2019.