For senior assistant coach Ben Rutten, 2020 is a year for learning, relationship-building and taking responsibility.
The man affectionately known as ‘Truck’ has only one year to go before he becomes Essendon’s 33rd senior coach, taking over from John Worsfold at the end of the 2020 season as part of the Bombers’ succession plan.
It’s been a thorough journey to the senior role for the South Australian, who began coaching in 2014 as Richmond’s defence coach following a 229-game career with Adelaide, before joining the Bombers in 2018 as an assistant.
Now in his third year at the club and facing the quickening prospect of the succession plan coming to fruition, Rutten believes the handover process with Worsfold is going smoothly.
He said the key for ensuring a seamless transition into the senior coach role will come down to clear communication with Worsfold, as well as building strong relationships with the players.
“(The succession plan) has been going really well,” Rutten said.
“Fundamentally, it comes back to the communication between John and I and the clarity of our roles and responsibilities, and so far it’s been working really well.
“My real focus throughout this pre-season is to get on the shop floor more and build some really strong relationships with the players and staff, as well as taking on the responsibility with the way we play and the education and training around all that.”
Away from the training track, Rutten has helped ready himself for the rigours of coaching by spending time with family over the Christmas break.
He said the downtime has left him feeling mentally refreshed ahead of an important year personally and for the club.
“The three-week break is a good time for the players and also a good time for the coach as well,” he said.
“I didn’t have a great deal of time for a break in the off-season - I’d sort of earmarked the three-week break as a good time to switch off and spend some time with the family, so it was a great opportunity for that.
“I feel really rejuvenated and ready to go for the season ahead.”
Rutten’s hands-on approach and support of Worsfold have helped drive the Bombers’ preparations for the 2020 season.
With the club now having completed a gruelling pre-season camp in Coffs Harbour, the end of January signals the tail-end of the off-season.
And with practice matches just around the corner, Rutten said he was confident the Bombers would hit the ground running.
“The time goes really quickly, but I feel there’s a real kind of positive, optimistic vibe around the group,” Rutten said.
“Both the players and coaches are driving ways that they can improve their game every day.
“Whether that be from a physical point of view, a mental point of view or a tactical craft point of view, the guys’ focus is really on what they are doing that day and how it’s going to add to us as a team going forward.”
The Dons’ first pre-season clash is against West Coast on Thursday, February 27 at Mineral Resources Park in Perth before they take on Geelong at Central Reserve in Colac on Monday, March 9.