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Young Dons on Track

BTV: Development Update Part 1 - February 10, 2016. Head of Player Development Matthew Egan talks about the development of the Bombers first year draftees.

Essendon’s new draftees could potentially play a big role in their first year at the Club.

Eight of the eleven players taken in either the National Draft or the Rookie Draft are entering their first season in the AFL.

While their development is not being rushed, Matthew Egan is seeing promising signs in all of the youngsters as they build towards their debut season.

The new Head of Player Development shared his thoughts on the draftees.

Darcy Parish:

Our first pick in the 2015 National Draft, Darcy Parish has adapted to the demands of senior football well, demonstrating great professionalism around the club.

Even in the early days, Parish has demonstrated why he was so highly regarded as a midfielder for the Geelong Falcons in the TAC Cup.

Egan has been impressed with the skill level and maturity that Parish shows on the track.

Parish has also been able to learn from fellow new recruits Ryan Crowley, Jonathan Simpkin and Craig Bird, providing a glimpse into what is required to be a midfielder at a senior level.

“He’s obviously a highly talented kid,” Egan said.

“He’s playing a lot of the midfield craft and learning off the big bodies. His ‘in tight’ stuff is super.”

Although predominantly training with the midfield group, Egan revealed that the youngster may drift forward throughout the year in order to give him a broader experience and protect his young body.

The move forward shouldn’t provide too much of a learning curve for Parish, who kicked six goals from ten matches during the 2015 TAC Cup season.

“He is probably going to end up a little forward as well as he learns and develops, so he’s spending a little bit of time with the forwards as well,” Egan said.

“He is tracking really well, he’s a really nice kid and is hungry to learn.”

Aaron Francis:

The tall utility joined the Bombers with our sixth selection in the 2015 draft and was seen as a player who would be able to slot into the backline quite well.

Francis’ training load has been slightly less than some of the other new recruits, as a minor groin complaint reduced his load at the beginning of the pre-season.

Not wanting to further aggravate the injury, Matthew Egan and the development group altered his program to ensure  the South Australian gets the most of his first year.

“He’s had a few little interruptions when he came to us, he had some groin trouble in the back end of last year,” Egan said.

“We’ve eased him into training a lot at the start, but we’ve seen him work up pretty quickly to training.”

Despite the setback, Francis is seen as one of the most exciting prospects in the development group.

His natural read on the play, willingness to attack the ball and strong marking ability will be a great asset to the backline once he's able to get some consistency into his game.

“He’s a really explosive kind of person, he jumps at the ball and loves reading the flight,” Egan said.

“He still has a bit to learn and is still a bit raw in a few areas, which is great for development coaches because you get to track their development really well.

“We’ve pulled back a little on his program, so he’ll be a work in progress just in the early part of the year.

“Once he gets going, he’s really exciting young talent.”