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Door opens for midfield options

BTV: The Footy Panel - Ep 28; John Worsfold Julian de Stoop & Scott Lucas catch up with Senior Coach John Worsfold.

Retirements, development and recruiting could open the door for some fresh faces in the Essendon midfield next season.

Jobe Watson played 20 games in 2017 but has announced his retirement alongside Brent Stanton who, despite only playing seven games this season, has been a mainstay of the Bombers midfield since 2004. 

Darcy Parish played 20 games in the midfield this year and is up to 40 games across his first two seasons.

Andrew McGrath also gained some midfield exposure late in the year.

Watson leaves a significant hole as an inside midfielder.  He was ranked second at the Club for both contested possessions and clearances.

Worsfold has identified Kobe Mutch, Josh Begley, Kyle Langford and Jayden Laverde as potential options for more time in the AFL side's midfield.

“We don’t have any of the big, Jobe Watson calibre guys but we’ve got some solid boys that will step up,” Worsfold told The Footy Panel. 

“Kobe Mutch played mainly on the wing this year in the VFL but started to play inside later in the year and he’s going to grow into a really solid boy.

“We think he’s got potential to play inside and outside. He’s got a huge tank, he can run all day but he can win the ball inside.

“Josh Begley is another player who late in the VFL season started to get some time on-ball and again, he’s got a very good tank, good speed and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him develop into someone who can go through the midfield as a really strong bodied player.

“Kyle Langford developed really well throughout this year. We had him working in the midfield in the VFL all year as part of his development so he’s going to be looking for opportunities to step up inside.

“Jayden Laverde is another one we believe we can start to put some midfield development into.”

The trade and free agency period gets underway next month and that shapes as another avenue for the Bombers to boost their midfield stocks.

The Club has previously stated they have the salary cap space to bring in an established player if the opportunity arises.

“We think we’ve got the players on the list, (but) that doesn’t mean we won’t look outside as well,” Worsfold said.

“If we can add in immediate talent that would be something we’d be looking at as well, but there are a lot of things that have to happen to get players to the Club.”

The Bombers were ranked 13th for contested possession in 2017, while their Elimination Final opponent, Sydney, was 5th.

The raw statistics can be misleading depending on the game styles of certain teams but the Dons matched the Swans (132-136) in contested possession last week despite the lopsided scoreboard.

Darcy Parish (14 contested possessions), Dyson Heppell (11), Jobe Watson (10) and Joe Daniher (10) all notched double figures in that category.

“As much as Kennedy and Parker were very good in winning contested ball and clearances, we pretty much matched them in that area," Worsfold said.

“It was more the ball on the outside that we weren’t very efficient with, we didn’t get it forward enough, we turned it over and Sydney intercepted way too many times.

“That was the biggest part of the game that was disappointing for us.

“I thought the way the guys took it up to Sydney in terms of the tackling and pressure around the contest and contested ball – there was a lot of hard work put in to that. 

“But we need to get better in that regard. We lost Jobe who has been a strong contributor in that area so there is some good challenges for us.

“Overall I think our game may have been the lowest in terms of contested ball and that’s a little bit about the way we play, it has been a trend for us throughout the year.

“We look mainly to see how we match up against our opposition every week in that regard and we improved in that area throughout the year, so it’s certainly an area we want to continue to get better at.”