Essendon have not been a serious premiership threat for the past 16 years – the highest they’ve finished was seventh in 2017, that year it all came together and they were still bundled out of the finals in Week 1.
So how do the Bombers go from middling to the promised land of premiership glory?
Step 1: Sack the strength and conditioning team and the medical staff
The last two years the Dons have been crippled by injuries.
Part of this would be bad luck, but a larger part would be the fact that the club are reliant on a series of individuals rather than playing in a systematic fashion.
Step 2: Trade Orazio Fantasia, Mason Redman or Aaron Francis – or all three
Each of these players has draft capital if they were to be traded. In particular, Fantasia and Francis would be suitable for Port Adelaide, and a first-round pick or a future first-round pick would be suitable compensation.
Some would argue Essendon should use these players to get Oliver Wines. A year or two ago I would’ve agreed, however he has undergone a descent in terms of injury and having the captaincy stripped from him.
As a result, either two second-round picks or one first-round pick would be enough to get this deal done, in particular because of the compromised nature of this current draft, which leaves the Bombers with a lot of flexibility at the negotiating table.
Step 3: Trade for Peter Wright and Will Brodie
The Suns do not have a good history at the trade table, losing nearly every trade they’ve ever made, but they have a good relationship with the Dons.
If Essendon were to go to the Gold Coast offering a first and maybe a second-round pick for Peter Wright and Will Brodie it would be a win-win situation.
Given the Bombers’ poor midfield and injury-prone forward line (particularly with the key forwards), signing two-metre Peter would alleviate some of these concerns, as the 189-centimetre, 91-kilogram midfielder is an inside bull. In 2019 he had a banner year, gathering possessions at the coalface and distributing it. What’s more he is four years younger than Wines and has more room to develop his craft.
If not these two targets? Then in the key forward department they could target Ben Brown or Jeremy Cameron, but each of these options would be extremely expensive both in terms of the salary cap and draft picks.
In the midfield, the Bombers could pick up players from the Giants, who may have a logjam in the salary cap, but this would effectively remove the possibility of getting Jeremy Cameron.
In particular, they should look at Xavier O’Halloran, Jye Caldwell or even Zac Williams, who’s a restricted free agent.
Step 4: Let Joey go
Joe Daniher is a mercurial talent, but his injuries have potentially crippled his career. A change of scenery is in order to give him the best possibility of recovering and getting back on the park.
Now Joey will more than likely go to Sydney, but if he elects to stay, Essendon should extend him the courtesy of a new contract solely based on his potential as an athletic key forward and ruckman. However, this is a slim possibility, and the club should wish him well and rue the lost opportunity of 2019.
Step 5: Recruit sons and academy players coming through the draft
Essendon have some extremely talented players coming through their academy, such as the Davey and Hird brothers. Cody Brand and Joshua Eyre are both believed to be high-ish picks in the 2020 draft and fill a need that Essendon will have, with Cale Hooker and Michael Hurley ageing, and the possibility of Daniher leaving or never returning to his best.
Eyre is a mobile key forward and Brand is a strong key defender, so each should be brought in while Dyson Heppell can foster a positive culture and resilience.
Of course, to win a premiership requires an immense amount of luck as well as a system that holds up in the pressure cauldron of finals football – something notoriously lacking at Essendon.
But these steps will leave us in the best possible position to win a flag.