A tough loss to Collingwood isn’t discouraging Essendon’s Senior Coach Natalie Wood from her team’s growth so far in 2023.

Despite looking competitive in bursts throughout the first quarter, the Bombers found themselves unable to overcome the Pies’ pressure in the Melbourne heat, eventually falling by 20 points.

The positive signs from the Bombers’ season to date are keeping the side in good spirits, with Wood confident they can take some good experience from the defeat.


“Collingwood found a way to raise their pressure and method around the ball, and we didn’t have answers for that today,” Wood said.

“Within the game, the mindset of the players to adapt our method (in the fourth quarter) to try and pepper the scoreboard – obviously we didn’t get near Collingwood in the end – but even though it hadn’t been our day, until the end we were trying to find a way.

“They pressured us into a lot more handballs around congestion and we just weren’t able to adapt to that as quick as we would’ve liked.

“We’re trying to find that balance of getting those kick-marks, but also making sure we’ve got enough speed on the game, and we’ll keep evolving that.”

Forward Bonnie Toogood was a standout on the day for the Bombers, continuing a career-best run of form with a three-goal showing.

Proud of Toogood’s form, Wood isn’t concerned by any suggestions of an over-reliance on their key forward, with a variety of options in attack still ready to fire.


“I don’t think it’s any surprise at the elite level that if you do the work, you find ways to improve and Bonnie is leading by example,” Toogood said.

“She does extra craft, studies her opposition, invests in her teammates, she’s finding ways to grow.

“I definitely think we’ve got a number of avenues to goal, I actually think we denied Bonnie and the other forwards a bit of opportunity by trying to chip the ball around through the middle and over-handball.

“I thought Paige Scott in the first quarter was particularly good and our forwards presented really well.

“We’ve got forwards and mids with really high numbers of goal assists so I don’t see that (over-reliance) as an issue for us.”

Even after the loss, the Bombers sit in a favourable position with a 3-2 record at the midway point of the season, showing notable progression from last season.

Wood is feeling reassured by the team’s ability to prepare during the week, especially from its younger crop who continue to develop.


“We’re now a season and a half into our existence and starting to get a little more predictable to each other. We weren’t today, but we are building that predictability,” Wood said.

“The players are building a solid way that we review and prepare, and they’re getting really consistent with that, so I thought our week (and the mindset of the players coming in) was quite good.

“We’ve got five or six second-year players (turning 19 years old) and they’re working out how to play in the competition and be elite athletes.

“In the first half of the season they’ve progressed really well and it’ll be great to see where their growth gets to by the end of the year.”

The Bombers are presented with a big test against Geelong in Warrnambool this Sunday, looking to bounce back and recapture their best form.

“3-2 (after week five) is good reward for the players in terms of being new to the competition, but we’ve got high expectations,” Wood said.

“We’re really going to stretch ourselves and try to be able to compete with the best.

“We’ll learn a lot from seeing (Collingwood’s) character and how they fronted up today. We hope down the track that we can really grow into ourselves."