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.
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.
ESSENDON'S 2021 VFL LIST
|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|
|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.