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Slow burn will pay off

Simon Conway  April 21, 2017 12:50 PM

Aaron Francis was impressive in the Bombers opening VFL match of the season.

Aaron Francis was impressive in the Bombers opening VFL match of the season.

Essendon List and Recruiting Manager Adrian Dodoro isn’t surprised Aaron Francis has taken a little longer than fellow first round pick Darcy Parish to find his feet at AFL level.

The Bombers selected the pair with their first two picks (number five and six overall) in the 2015 National Draft.

While Parish quickly became a mainstay of the Essendon midfield and is averaging 22 possessions per game this season, Francis has struggled to find continuity. 

“There was some commentary about Paddy McCartin in the last couple of days and it just made me think of Aaron,” Dodoro told Bomber Radio.

“These guys who are a little bit bigger do take a bit of extra time.

“When we drafted Aaron we knew that he was going to maybe be a bit of a slow burn.

“He had an interrupted back end of his top age year with some groin issues.

“When we drafted him everyone was aware that we had to take it slowly with him in his first pre-season.

“Our fitness team did a magnificent job in getting him up last year. This year is virtually his first year and he’s been building slowly each week.

“I think he’s knocking on the door of senior selection and we’re going to have a very exciting player for many years to come.”

Francis began his 2017 campaign in the VFL against Sandringham. 

He picked up 15 possessions, took six marks and laid nine tackles.

In the second half the 19 year old was moved into the middle of the ground and was one of the key figures in the Bombers comeback.

“I think you’ve got to play a bit of midfield,” Dodoro said.

“I think the way the game is played, you have to have players that can play midfield/back and midfield/forward.

“There has been an emphasis on [Kyle] Langford, [Jayden] Laverde and Francis being able to do that.

“But he’ll [Francis] need to get that engine built up over the next couple of years.

“I still see him as a power forward or a third defender, but there is no reason why when he gets to 23 or 24 that he couldn’t impact through the midfield.”