Essendon senior coach Ben Rutten spoke to the media via video link from Noosa on Wednesday, as the Bombers prepare for their round 19 clash with GWS at Metricon Stadium on Sunday.
Below are the key takeaways from his media conference.
1. Jonesy’s positive prognosis
Young forward Harrison Jones unfortunately ended his run of 16 consecutive games when he was ruled out of the Dons’ clash with the Roos with a stress injury in his foot.
The 20-year-old has made a promising start to his AFL career, kicking 20 goals and earning a NAB AFL Rising Star nomination in round 14.
Rutten said Jones’ injury had been caught early, which should lead to a quicker recovery.
“With Harry, we were able to pick up a bit of foot stress early and we’ve got good information around that it’s in the really early stages,” Rutten said.
“There’s been no kind of crack or fracture through there, so that’s positive news for Harry.
“We’re just piecing together what that might look like and what the potential options are for his recovery and return.”
2. Improvement the main motivation
Essendon enters round 19 placed eighth, with a win-loss record of 8-9 and a healthy percentage of 104.5.
With the Bombers fielding the second-least experienced side in the competition, many externally have been surprised at the Dons’ improvement in 2021.
With finals being a realistic chance, Rutten said the thought of playing in September isn’t the main focus, with improvement and consistency the key drivers.
“Not sure (finals is the main focus), they’re (playing group) certainly driven to get better,” he said.
“That’s the main thing we’ve been focusing on right from day one when we started.
“We want to be a group driven by improvement and getting better and supporting each other to do that.”
3. Improving team defence a must
As they enter the final five rounds of the season sitting third for total points per game, the Bombers' scoring ability can't be doubted.
One key facet Rutten wants his side to improve, however, is its team defence.
With the Bombers conceding the fifth-most points per game, Rutten is adamant defensive lapses will cost his charges if they do not improve.
“I think from the weekend we can improve our full-ground defence,” he said.
“I thought the way the Kangaroos were able to kick the ball through us in the first half wasn’t at the level we want it at.
“We need to keep improving that connection across the group.”
4. Giants a tall order
Sunday’s game at Metricon Stadium looms as a crucial one for both Essendon’s and GWS’ push for finals.
The Giants sit two points and percentage behind the Dons in 12th place and will be out to respond after a stinging loss to cross-town rival Sydney.
Rutten knows Leon Cameron’s side will be a tough task and his troops will have to be ready to curtail a hungry GWS outfit.
“They put in a really strong first-half against the Swans who are a quality team, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.
“We’re fully aware of what the Giants can do, we’re expecting them at their best on Sunday and we need to prepare for that.”
5. Feeling the love from afar
Essendon’s senior coach was feeling the affection during Wednesday’s presser, full of admiration for the news of 80,000 members donning the sash in 2021.
Navigating these times with 80k mighty members.— Essendon FC (@essendonfc) July 20, 2021
We're immensely grateful for your support.
Thank you, #godons faithful.
While the Dons would love to play this weekend’s fixture against the Giants in Melbourne to celebrate the milestone, Rutten wants to assure members and supporters their loyalty and support is being felt in the Sunshine State.
“Of course our preference would be to get home and play at Marvel with a full house,” he said.
“That’s what we’d love and certainly from up here, we can feel the support we’re getting from our members and supporters.
“We’ve just got over 80,000 members which is fantastic, seeing the limited amount of footy we’ve been able to play in front of our fans the last two years.”