Essendon coach Ben Rutton has defended under-fire Bomber Dylan Shiel, saying Sydney’s Luke Parker’s sledge for the midfielder on Saturday night reflected poorly on the club as a whole.
Parker’s taunt for Shiel has been a hot topic throughout the week, with former Bombers great Matthew Lloyd infamously saying he wished Shiel had ‘ploughed through’ Parker after being ‘disrespected’.
However, speaking on Thursday morning, Rutten said it was up to the whole club to improve and develop a ‘harder edge’, after laying just 30 tackles against the Swans.
“We haven’t played with the hard edge that we need to consistently enough throughout the season and Sydney was a game where we were way off the level,” the coach said on Thursday morning.
“It’s not about Dylan Shiel, it’s about all of us as a football club.
“I don’t think the vision [of Parker’s taunt] was reflective of the moment, it was reflective of us as a club during that game. It was reflective of us as a club during the game.”
After captain Dyson Heppell told Fox Footy’s On the Couch on Monday evening the Parker incident hadn’t been discussed at the club, Rutten said players have now all seen the vision, leading to what he described as ‘some really honest reflections’.
In finding a path forward, Rutten said the standard had been set by youngster Jye Caldwell’s courageous collision with Swan Tom McCartin, with a host of teammates led by Andrew McGrath sticking up for the injured 21-year old.
“We need to stand up for each other. That’s pretty clear. I thought Andy McGrath, after the Jye Caldwell incident, that’s the level that we expect of our players,” Rutte said.
“I thought that was fantastic leadership, I thought it was a display of someone who really cares about the footy club and wants to make a difference.
“That’s the quality of person Andy McGrath is and that’s what we need to see more of. The players are clear on that.”
Caldwell remains a chance to face Richmond in this weekend’s annual Dreamtime at the ‘G clash, despite suffering a shoulder injury in the collision, while Rutten confirmed Shiel won’t be dropped despite speculation.
“Dylan’s hurting like a lot of our players are at the moment about the way we’re playing. That’s the bottom line,” Rutten said.
“We’re supporting Dylan where we can, making sure he’s really clear on the expectations just like we are with all of our players.
“Dylan’s a great person, he adds a lot to our footy club and he adds a lot to us out on the field.”
While Rutten has been under fire for much of the season after leading the Bombers to finals in his first year in charge in 2021, he said he welcomes the challenge to prove his worth as a coach.
“For me it’s an awesome opportunity to lead the footy club and the leadership that’s required is what I’m up for,” he said.
Heritier Lumumba has released another round of recordings of conversations with former Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley, but the former Magpie has said it will be his final public comment on the bitter feud between player and club.
Lumumba took to Twitter to release audio snippets allegedly featuring talks with Buckley and then-Magpies list manager Derek Hine, which he claims prove he was forced out of the club by the coach.
“In response to Nathan Buckley’s false claim last week that I had asked to be traded from CFC, I’m providing this recording to make it clear that I was pushed out of the club. They made it clear they had made their decision, & that my only choice was to retire or be traded,” Lumumba wrote alongside the recording.
“It was made clear to me that my decision to challenge the Club’s culture would simply not be tolerated.”
Lumumba states that the two recordings will be his last public comment on his clash with the Magpies, in which he has attempted to make public issues with the club’s ‘disgusting’ culture and alleged history of racism while he played there.
The 35-year old has reportedly already severed communications with the club, expressing his frustration at what he describes as their refusal to make meaningful change despite the recommendations of the ‘Do Better’ report.
“Since the release of the ‘Do Better’ report, CFC officials have been at pains to avoid anyone taking responsibility for the Club’s serious cultural failures,” Lumumba’s statement reads.
“I’ve been trying to close this chapter since 2017, but repeated dishonesty, misconduct, and the refusal of CFC figures past and present to admit simple facts has dragged this out.
“With less than two weeks until I become a father again, closing this chapter and releasing this burden has come at the perfect time.”
After months of speculation, the AFLW has officially been confirmed to start its next season in August this year.
The league announced on Thursday afternoon the season will commence between the 25th and 27th of August, with official dates and fixtures to be confirmed.
The grand final weekend will be from the 25th-27th of November.
It will consist of a 10-week home-and-away season and four weeks of finals, despite the players calling for an extended season due to the inclusion of four new teams, bringing the competition up to 18 clubs.
Due to this impasse, the current agreement will last only one year before a new Collective Bargaining Agreement will need to be struck.
In addition, the league also confirmed a pay rise of more than 90 per cent for AFLW players.
Under the new agreement, top-tier players – of which there are mostly two at each club – will be paid $71,935, up from $37,155 for the last season from January-April this year.
Tier two players’ salaries increase from $28,697 to $55,559, tier three players from $24,468 to $47,372; while the lowest-paid bracket will shoot up from $20,239 to $39,184.
Having negotiated heavily for increased player payments to allow greater professionalisation of the code, it is believed the next CBA will revolve around the season’s length, and result in a full 18-round competition as early as 2026.