Essendon VFL has released its 2021 playing list ahead of its season opener against Brisbane on April 17.

The 30-man squad, which includes eight NAB League players, features inside midfielders Kyle Dunkley and Joe Atley, who were the first newcomers to sign in February.

Both have prior AFL experience, with Dunkley playing five games over two seasons for Melbourne and Atley playing four games for Port Adelaide. 

Other ex-AFL recruits include Sam McLarty (Collingwood) and Brady Rowles (Sydney Swans), while James Harrold joins the Bombers after playing for East Fremantle in the WAFL.

05:55 Mins
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VFL update with new senior coach

Essendon development and VFL senior coach Leigh Tudor provides an update on pre-season, new signings and the VFL-AFL alignment.

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Bernard Shepheard, head of VFL and community, said he was excited to finalise this year’s list and was looking forward to seeing how the new recruits would add to the strong form and culture developed over the last few years.

“We’ve had a really successful VFL program the last five or six years where we’ve played in a lot of finals, which is really good,” Shepheard said.

“[It’s going to be] a challenge for the [new recruits] and a challenge for us to sort of carry that culture on from previous years and keep growing as a club, with an aim for us to continue to compete at the top end and to compete in finals this year and moving forward.”

Of the eight returning players, Shepheard is eager to see club stalwart Danny Younan and Josh Tynan continue their impressive form, and is particularly looking forward to watching up-and-coming youngster Matt Day, who has struggled with injury in previous years.

“He’s (Day) got himself fit and he’s looking really good, I'm excited to see him progress throughout the season,” he said.

This year’s revamped VFL season will include both AFL-aligned and standalone clubs from Queensland and New South Wales, with 22 teams in total competing in a 16-round season.


Shepheard said not only was it exciting to see the competition grow, but the new structure would allow for younger players to gain more experience on what the AFL system is like.

“It gives us really good opportunities to provide that experience to our VFL team and our younger AFL players as well who may not have experienced that in the early stages of their career,” he said.

“I think it can only mean good things for the comp in general.”

Essendon VFL’s first game against Brisbane will be held at Southpines Sporting Complex at 1:30pm on April 17.

New VFL senior coach Leigh Tudor will helm the Bombers, while continuing to lead the growth of the the club's first to third-year players alongside development and VFL senior assistant coach Cameron Roberts.


50 Josh Tynan November 6, 1993
51 Sam McLarty May 11, 1998
52* Jack Hickman Apri 18, 2002
53* Sam Conforti May 15, 2002
54 Daniel Thompson April 30, 1994
55 Danny Younan August 18, 1992
56 Joshua Kemp April 13, 2000
57 Billy Cootee December 18, 2002
58 Jake Hobbs September 30, 1997
59 Pat Bannister October 12, 2002
60 Joe Atley August 4, 1998
61 Sam Graham June 24, 2000
62* Jack Evans March 21, 2000
63* Jackson Cardillo July 3, 2002
64 Wade Derksen June 18, 2001
65 Matt Day April 1, 1999
66 Fraser Robertson March 9, 2001
67 Kobe Brown February 13, 2001
68 Brady Rowles February 2, 2001
69 James Harrold February 6, 1997
70 Angus Baker October 3, 1998
71 Charlie Byrne October 26, 2002
72* Sam Paea July 14, 2002
73* Caleb Ernst  
74* Campbell Edwardes October 7, 2002
75 Max Simpson January 19, 2001
76 Bruno Laguda April 14, 1997
77 Kyle Dunkley June 20, 2000
78 Josh Smithson May 4, 1999
79* Ben Morgan March 4, 2002

*NAB League players who will dip in and out of the squad in 2021.