Essendon premiership player Blake Caracella says it's great to be back in the red and black as he takes on a new coaching role in charge of the midfield and team attack.
While the Bombers have undergone a significant relocation to The Hangar since Caracella’s time at Windy Hill, he said there has been no shortage of familiar faces at the club.
The former Richmond, Geelong and Collingwood coach was a teammate of stoppage coach Mark Harvey in his early days as a Bomber, worked alongside senior assistant Ben Rutten at the Tigers and coached new backline assistant James Kelly at the Cats.
“It’s good, I’ve been here for five or six weeks now so I’ve had a good chance to meet and get to know the players and the coaches too,” Caracella said.
“It’s good to be back around Mark Harvey, who I actually played with a long time ago and he was one of my mentors as a coach.
“Ben Rutten’s here as well and even James Kelly, so I know quite a few people. Some of the staff have been here for 40 years, it’s good to see their faces as well.”
Caracella has been involved in three premierships as a coach - first with Geelong in 2011 before Richmond’s flags in 2017 and 2019.
He said while there are certain insights he can bring across to Essendon, it is important to have an innovative mindset heading forward.
“I think we just want to make it a fun place to be and to play and to express ourselves playing football.
“The game evolves fairly quickly. Fundamentally, it’s still the same, but we’ll try to incorporate a few things from elsewhere.
“But also, looking forward to the future, we need to make sure that we’re still adapting and changing and staying ahead of the curve.”
The new coach has spent more time with the squad’s younger brigade given their early return for the pre-season and he said a couple had proven particularly impressive so far.
“The younger players I had for the first two or three weeks, the older players have just come back really.
“A couple of the younger players are Andy McGrath; he’s training the house down to be honest, so I’m looking forward to him coming out in round one and playing.
“There’s Darcy Parish and quite a few young players with a bit of talent and hopefully we can all connect, play together and play well.”
Caracella’s return to the club coincides with next year’s 20th anniversary of the Bombers’ remarkable premiership in 2000.
It was a flag in which Caracella played a major part, averaging 20.4 disposals and booting 35 goals (including three in the Grand Final) from his 24 games in the sensational season.
He said he is looking forward to celebrating the premiership again in round seven next year as the Dons once again face Melbourne at the MCG.
“I haven’t thought about that, but when it comes around to the reunion and the function itself – it’s the week of the Melbourne game – it will be (special).
“It’s a long time ago, 20 years, but there are still fond memories from the day back then.”
The Bombers will take leave over the Christmas and New Year period before returning to the track in January.