AS ESSENDON prepared to face West Coast last week, the Bombers also took a moment to acknowledge the first milestone of one of their emerging stars. 

In a team meeting ahead of the clash, the Bombers congratulated Archie Perkins on his upcoming 50th game and on the big screen pulled up a photo from his draft night, where the about-to-be Bomber donned a fedora hat.  


Two-and-a-half years later Perkins stands by the hat (he has lost that wide brim, replacing it with a new one) but isn't sure about the shoulder-length hair he had tucked behind his ears for his draft moment. 

"I don't mind the fedora, but my hair was shocking," Perkins told this week. "I can't believe that I rolled around with that, I'm annoyed someone didn't tell me to cut it. Mum did, but no one listens to their mum about that stuff. It looks better now."

The hat, haircut and beaded necklace was the first little insight for Essendon fans that their No.9 pick was his own man, seeing things in his own way, operating in his own manner. Now they know the lethal sidestep, shrugging of tackles, the clutch goals and clenched fist celebrations from one of their most promising long termers.  


Perkins' 50 games have come from a possible 56 – he sits only second to Swan Errol Gulden for the most games played by any 2020 draftee – and this year he ranks third at Essendon for goals (13). His midfield and forward balance is continuing to advance and in Essendon's much improved first half of 2023, Perkins has made a regular impact at crucial times. 

"If you looked at my first year, then second year and now my third, I'm making incremental gains. I haven't smashed it or dominated games but I'm building a solid foundation in the role that I'm playing as a high half-forward," he said. 

"I'm not trying to go out and get 25 touches – that's not my role in the team – I'm trying to impact games and provide a good contest ahead of the ball."

Perkins' growth hasn't happened by chance. Essendon's forwards coach Dale Tapping rates him as one of the most consistent reviewers of his own game. 

The Bombers strengthen their dominant lead with these Archie Perkins gems.

At the start of every week, Perkins will sit with Tapping to look through his forward craft, and does the same with midfield assistants Daniel Giansiracusa and Ben Jacobs, even when he hasn't played much midfield time. He trains with both groups and sits in line meetings with both, too.  

"Some players' reviewing can vary based on how they've played. But Archie does it each week and is really diligent with it," Tapping said. 

The next step, Perkins hopes, is to continue his midfield build. Essendon coach Brad Scott said this week he wasn't sure what Perkins becomes positionally – "I don't have the answer, but all I can see is the unbelievable attributes he has," Scott said – but the 21-year-old knows what he's hunting, having swapped centre bounces with Jake Stringer in recent weeks. 

"Eventually I'd like to feature in the midfield more often than not and the people here and the coaches have a faith in me that I'm going to be able to do that and I do as well," he said.

"When that time comes I'm going to take the opportunity but the strength of our team is that we've got a lot of guys who can be in there so my versatility helps in that sense and I think I play forward line pretty well as well.


"I look at those strike players like Shai Bolton or Connor Rozee and they are probably more of the type of player that I think I can become with work."

Perkins has already shown an appetite for the crunch moments. "He feels comfortable on the big stage," Tapping said. "He has some confidence but underneath it all, he really cares about his performance." 

Perkins' goal haul this year has included a range of plays – front and centre roves, left and right-foot snaps, on-the-run bombs and classy set shots – and on Anzac Day he tackled Collingwood's John Noble and slotted the long shot after winning the holding the ball free kick – and holding off Stringer for the kick.

"I had a sore ankle that day and Jakey claims he thought I had a sore ankle so he thought he better take it but if you watch the vision I had more of the tackle. That's Jakey for you, but I was pleased with that one," he said.

"Sometimes players can go into their shell a bit on game day but I find I'm not someone who does that. I have the confidence in myself to get it done in pressure situations. 

A dejected Archie Perkins after the Bombers' loss to the Bulldogs. (Photo: AFL Photos)

"It comes back to not fearing failure. I've had that throughout my whole sporting journey, really. I don't really fear stuffing up." 

The same applies for the trademark sidestep, which has caught a number of opponents unawares – but not his skipper.

"Zachy Merrett gets me all the time at training. He's the best tackler and the best chaser so sometimes he gets me. It all happens really quickly, I don't really see it coming and think 'I'm going to take this guy on' – I just find myself in the position and it's a quick reflex," Perkins said. 

The attacking, "fighting forward" play is part of Perkins' appeal, with the Bomber rising in popularity among the Essendon faithful. More and more No.16 jumpers are at games, his badges often sell out on game day and his emergence pre-game is met with some of the loudest photo and autograph requests.

It's a humbling thing for Perkins, who comes at his football from a different perspective to some. 


He first picked up a footy later than others at school, skipping Auskick, before growing up an avid Cats and Paul Chapman fan. His parents are from New Zealand, and Perkins was a regular skateboarder until too many rolled ankles saw him stop that, but he has wider interests too, having studied global politics at school and now commerce at Melbourne University, albeit part-time ("I couldn't tell you how I'm going with it," he said).

Being an early draft pick to one of the competition's biggest clubs has meant the spotlight has followed Perkins more than he has chased it and he isn't one to promote his own work or seek plaudits, but don't confuse his approach with any complacency: Perkins is striving for the glory (just maybe not the fame) and doing it in his own style. 

"I know within myself, which is the most important thing, that I've got an intense desire to be the best player I can. And nobody can take that desire away from me. If I have faith and trust in that then I believe I can get that out of myself," he said. 

"I'm not one of those guys who is just living and breathing footy in and away from the club who is going to do 10,000 extra things. That's not the way I tend to go about my business.

"I put a lot of emphasis on the big aspects of footy. I pride myself on my work on the training track and really getting as much out of myself as I can there and in the gym. 

"I think about the game a lot in reviewing my performance and my mentality of not fearing stuff, believing in myself and knowing my strengths are going to be good enough holds me in good stead. I've definitely got a really big desire and hunger to be the best player I can."