Essendon Bombers go into the Toyota 2020 AFL Premiership competition giving the appearance they could make an impact, just four years removed from the spoon they earned in the 2016 season, when they had to scrounge for players just to be able to field a side.
They have elevated a couple of former GWS players, Dylan Shield and Devon Smith to their leadership group. They will join captain Dyson Heppell, defender Micahel Hurley and midfielder David Zaharakis.
Essendon made the eight spot for finals last year, but West Coast Eagles sent them off with an easy 116 – 61 elimination final win in Perth.
After the penalty they suffered in 2016, it says something that the club has managed to return to relevance.
The 2019 finals appearance was welcome, even if the Bombers only narrowly qualified and they appear to use that finals appearance as both motivation and a springboard in the effort to win their first final game since 2004.
Both Shiel and Smith should be well acquainted with the culture and their teammates by now. Shiel was strong in 2019 and all indications are that he will be equally competent in 2020.
Smith was hurt and would make only seven appearances, but he should be fit for the first round of the home-and-away season and like Shiel, he is a proven contributor.
Smith was the winner of the Crichton Medal, emblematic of Essendon’s best and fairest, in his first season with Essendon in 2018.
“This elevation is a terrific opportunity for both Devon and Dylan,” Essendon’s football manager Dan Richardson said.”Both men lead by example with their professionalism and have a strong on-field presence.”
The 2020 AFL season finds the Bombers in a unique position. Current coach John Worsfold is in his final season and all indications are that he will turn the club over to Ben Rutten.