Growing up down the road from Windy Hill before he was drafted to the Gold Coast Suns to commence his AFL journey, Peter Wright already had a level of knowledge about the success and history of the Essendon Football Club.
But thanks to a pre-season initiative led by new senior coach Ben Rutten, the recruit's appreciation for the Bombers has taken on a whole new meaning in his move from the League's second-youngest club to one of its oldest.
“'Truck' (Rutten) is trying to make sure this playing group really understands our history and has an appreciation for where we’ve come from. It’s a storied club that has had a lot of success in the past and it’s something I’m really appreciating even more every week I’m here,” Wright said.
“Most weeks, we’re now training at Windy Hill for a day and it’s building (on that) connection to the past, particularly for the new players to learn. We’ve got new artwork on the walls at the NEC Hangar too and Truck is big on drawing strength from that and appreciating how proud we are as a big club.
Our players have walked into new-look entrances this pre-season in an initiative driven by Truck ????— Essendon FC (@essendonfc) January 9, 2021
“And I guess it’s about taking a bit of that confidence into the way we play, running out on the field this season and the way we hold ourselves day to day. We’ve got to learn about where we’ve been to get to where we want to go. It’s new for me to look back at the history of a club and I’m really proud to be a part of that.”
The Bombers boosted their tall stocks with the acquisition of the 24-year-old during the 2020 trade period in exchange for a future-fourth round selection with the Suns.
While Wright didn't build on his 66 games in 2020, the club saw the upside in him, offering the No.8 draft pick (2014) a three-year deal until 2023.
Wright said conversations with Rutten in particular had given him faith he could recapture his best footy in the red and black.
“Obviously player movement in our industry is becoming more frequent. Last year was difficult for me on the field personally - I guess I found I was around the mark but wasn’t getting the opportunities,” he said.
“Towards the backend of the season I started having conversations with my manager and a few clubs and Essendon showed interest early. I had some discussions with Adrian (Dodoro) and Truck and got a good feel for the club and they identified me as someone who could play a role in the side and I definitely see myself doing that if I play my best football.
“With the world we are living in now, Truck and I had some Zoom calls to start with because I couldn’t meet him in person. But in speaking with Truck, the first thing I realised was that you immediately knew where you stood with him, which I really value.
“He’s a very honest communicator and he has a clear plan in where he sees the club going. He’s very driven to get the club there as quick as he can. I think we were aligned with where we both saw my football, too, where I am at, and the development I need to make. He spoke to his experience as a key defender in his past at Adelaide, and he spoke to how he thought I could get the best out of myself. Already I feel like I’ve made some good gains and I look forward to that continuing.”
With the development of other talls at the Suns, there was limited opportunity for Wright, who failed to make a senior appearance in 2020 after a promising start to his career that saw him boot 85 goals from 66 games.
But the 203cm forward/ruck said he was feeling “really good” and “ready to earn” his spot at the Bombers.
“It was a bit nerve racking starting afresh, but whenever you walk into a new club you want to make a good first impression," he said.
"In the time off after the season, I wanted to make sure I was in really good condition and so far I haven’t missed any training sessions. I’m working really closely with the high performance staff led by ‘Murph’ (head of high performance Sean Murphy) to make sure I can stay out on the park.
“Continuity is important. Not playing a lot last year was disappointing, but my body is feeling really good at the moment. I’m excited to see what 2021 can bring for our side.”