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Dons target 'ruthless' approach

Simon Conway  October 5, 2017 8:39 PM

BTV: CEO's address - Crichton 2017 Xavier Campbell speaks at the 2017 Best & Fairest.

Essendon Chief Executive Xavier Campbell says the Club must be 'ruthless' as it tries to close the gap on the competition’s leading sides.

The Bombers finished the season in eighth spot.

Campbell told members, supporters, players and staff at the Crichton Medal that the Club is determined to find the extra '20 per cent' needed to contend for a top four spot.

“We must challenge ourselves to find this improvement as a playing group ... as a coaching group … in our player development … and in our list management – and we have said we will be aggressive in this space and we will be," Campbell said.

“We must find it in our staff, everyone connected to our Club. We must be ruthless in pursuing this 20 per cent improvement if we are serious about achieving success. This must be our line in the sand and it must be a whole of Club focus.

“We should be excited about this challenge and opportunity.”

Campbell said the 25 point round one win over Hawthorn that featured six returning players and two Club debutants marked ‘the dawn of a new era’.

“We went into this year somewhat unsure of exactly where we sat as a team and what we were capable of due to the unique nature of having to reassemble the playing group over the course of the Melbourne summer,” Campbell said.

“But under the guidance of Senior Coach, John Worsfold, his coaching group, and new Captain Dyson Heppell, the team achieved significant outcomes and took important steps forward this season.

“And there is no doubt there were some amazing moments.

“Perhaps none more than the famous win over Hawthorn in Round One. It was an emotional release the Essendon family needed after such a challenging past few years.

“That magnificent moment at the MCG - when our players ran out to perhaps the most spine-tingling roar you will ever hear at a football match – was the baptism of a new Essendon.

“The dawn of a new era for our Club.”

Despite the success the Club enjoyed throughout 2018 including a return to the finals, record membership and more than one million fans through the gate, Campbell said the hard work is only just beginning, but everyone connected with the Bombers can take heart from the progress made so far.

“As a Club we have never been more unified or as strong to rise to the challenge that awaits us,” he said.

“2017 was labelled the ‘Comeback Story’. Now is the time for everyone in this room, everyone who is passionate about the Essendon Football Club, to be the authors of our next chapter.

“Our destiny, finally, is in our own hands.”

The Bombers will enter the 2018 pre-season without stalwarts Heath Hocking, Brent Stanton, James Kelly and Jobe Watson.

By the end of this season, they had played 914 games between them.

Campbell recognised the contribution of each player and said Watson will be remembered for the way he led the Club.

“He will rightly be remembered mostly as one of the great leaders to have played the game,” Campbell said.

“The way he held himself over the past four years is a credit to him and his family.

“He shouldered a significant burden, and no matter how heavy that load grew, he kept going.”

Campbell confirmed the Club would enter a stand-alone team in the 2018 VFLW season and said despite missing out on an AFLW licence, the Bombers remained committed to creating pathways for girls and boys from the remote communities of the Tiwi Islands, West Arnhem Land and the North West of Melbourne.