Essendon Bombers select Dyson Heppell to captain squad for fifth consecutive year, Zach Merrett back in leadership group


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Essendon coach Ben Rutten said the the playing group and coaching panel both had a role in selecting the club’s four official on-field leaders for 2021.

“Dyson, Michael, Zach and Andy each possess outstanding work ethic, professionalism and commitment to the Essendon Football Club,” Rutten said in a statement.

“These players lead by example and are committed to the program’s values, so they are each to be congratulated on this achievement.

“We also commend Dyson in being unanimously endorsed to lead this football club as captain for a fifth year. It shows the high regard he is held in by his peers.

“Dyson’s leadership continues to evolve year on year and he leads from the front. He nurtures but challenges the playing group, and is incredibly determined to take this group forward. He is to be applauded for his caring and committed attitude across all facets of this organisation.”

Rutten, in his first season as senior coach after a succession plan with AFL coaching veteran John Worsfold was finalised, said Zaharakis, Smith and Shiel would continue to “play an important role in building the leadership capabilities of our playing list this season”.

Essendon have had an off-season with considerable change, including the departure of star forward Joe Daniher to the Brisbane Lions and appointment of long-time Melbourne football boss Josh Mahoney to one of football’s hottest seats, replacing Dan Richardson as football boss at Tullamarine.

Heppell said the Bombers were well placed in 2021 as the club’s emerging playing group takes more steps forward.

Dyson Heppell was back at training last month. Credit:Getty Images

“There is a really good energy at the football club under a new senior coach in Ben and we are all united and committed in wanting to be better across the board. We’re hungry and determined and we’ve seen that desire in our training sessions this pre-season,” Heppell said in a statement.

“As a playing group, we’ve spoken about wanting to be a really dependable and hard-working football team. While we can set the example as a leadership group, it takes all of us to drive this football program forward. I’m excited to see what this playing group can bring in 2021.”

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AFL 2021: Neale Daniher, new walkway, FightMND, motor neurone disease, Essendon, MCG bridge, Daniher’s Way


A famous walkway to the MCG will be renamed in Neale Daniher’s honour, the Victorian government has revealed.

Daniher, part of one of Australian football’s most iconic families, has been raising awareness of motor neurone disease since being diagnosed with the illness seven years ago.

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews announced that the walkway from William Barak Bridge to the MCG will be renamed ‘Daniher’s Way’, while also noting the state government had contributed a $1 million donation to FightMND, the organisation founded by Daniher.

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Canberra defender Angus Baker to train with Essendon Bombers


The Bombers have multiple list vacancies, which they could fill during the pre-season supplemental selection period, ending on March 9, or alternatively wait until the mid-season rookie draft.

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The Dons already had a spot free following last year’s drafts, while the retirement of Irishman Ross McQuillan left them with another spot to fill. The Bombers also have the option of creating another vacancy by placing Irving Mosquito on their inactive list. Mosquito suffered a season-ending knee injury late in the 2020 campaign, which should sideline the small forward for much of 2021 as well.

Essendon have had success previously from the mid-season draft, with midfielder Will Snelling becoming a senior regular since being plucked in the middle of 2019.

Baker’s manager Kif Chowdhury of Centimeter Perfect confirmed Baker had attracted interest from multiple AFL clubs.

“A number of clubs have expressed an interest in Angus over the last couple of years,” Chowdhury said.

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“He was obviously very unlucky to miss out at the draft in 2019. Last year he decided to stay in Canberra to finish his tertiary studies, before COVID-19 ended the NEAFL season. He still managed to win the AFL Canberra league best and fairest playing for the Eastlake Demons. He’s only 22 years old with plenty to offer to an AFL club, we’re hopeful he’ll get an opportunity to showcase his talent in the near future”.

A host of players are training with AFL clubs this summer in a bid to win spot on an AFL list for 2021. These include ex-Melbourne defender Oscar McDonald, who is training with Carlton, former North Melbourne forward Mason Wood, trying his luck with St Kilda, and Kobe Farmer – the son of former star Jeff Farmer – who is training with the Demons, one of his father’s old clubs.

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Former Essendon Bomber Joe Daniher all smiles in first pre-season outing as a Brisbane Lions player


Lions midfielder Dayne Zorko told reporters on Wednesday that he was excited to see how Daniher would add to Brisbane’s forward line, which already includes Charlie Cameron.

“Since the season finished, Joe stayed up here the whole time; he’s been around the group for three months and had fitted in seamlessly,” Zorko said.

Joe Daniher takes a mark on Wednesday. Credit:Bradley Kanaris

“At the moment he looks really fit and healthy and hopefully we can keep it that way.

“I’m glad he can come up here, enjoy his football again and mingle with the guys, and their families as well, and everyone loves him and his partner.”

Adam Treloar trains with the Bulldogs on Wednesday.

Adam Treloar trains with the Bulldogs on Wednesday. Credit:Getty Images

Meanwhile, a host of other AFL clubs began their official pre-season on Wednesday.

Adam Treloar (Western Bulldogs), Jaidyn Stephenson (North Melbourne) and Brad Crouch (St Kilda) were all on the track as new recruits while Essendon, Port Adelaide, GWS, Fremantle, West Coast and Melbourne also got rolling.

The Power’s new recruit Aliir Aliir was not at training because he is still in quarantine after travelling from Sydney.

Reigning premiers Richmond will resume training on Monday.

The AFL has restricted clubs to training in small groups of a maximum of 10 given the recent coronavirus outbreaks in Victoria and New South Wales.

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There are a host of players without clubs who are training with AFL teams during pre-season in the hope of getting selected for a list spot as a Supplementary Selection Period pick (January 6 to March 9). Those include Oscar McDonald (formerly of Melbourne but training with Carlton), Flynn Appleby (formerly of Collingwood but training with North Melbourne) and Derek Eggmolesse-Smith (delisted by Richmond but given a chance to train with them again).

Koby Farmer, the son of Jeff Farmer, is training with Melbourne after he was overlooked in the draft.

All clubs except for Brisbane, Fremantle, Geelong, GWS, Gold Coast and West Coast have spots on their lists to fill.

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Another Irish player departs Essendon ahead of 2021 season


Irish Essendon recruit Ross McQuillan has announced his retirement.

According to The Herald Sun, McQuillan has made the decision not to return to Australia from Ireland.

The report adds that COVID-19 played a factor in his choice to stay at home.

The 21-year-old was in the second year of his Category B Rookie contract and was described as the number one Irish prospect at the 2018 AFL Europe Combine.

He joins Conor McKenna as Irish players to depart Essendon ahead of the 2021 season.

McKenna played 79 games for the Bombers after being selected in the 2014 Rookie Draft.







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AFL news 2021: Essendon list, Ross McQuillan retirement, Conor McKenna


Essendon has lost another Irish recruit in four months, with Ross McQuillan announcing his AFL retirement, effective immediately, after just one full season on the club’s list.

The Bombers confirmed on Sunday night that McQuillan, 21, would relocate back to his native country.

McQuillan relocated to Australia after he was drafted as an international rookie by Essendon in September 2019. However the left-footer was unable to play a senior game in 2020.

It comes just months after Conor McKenna elected to retire at the age of 24 after a tough 2020 campaign.

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New Essendon football boss Josh Mahoney indicated the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic had played a significant role in McQuillan’s decisions.



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AFL 2021, Dan Richardson, AFL umpiring, Essendon, Grant Williams, AFL Head of Umpiring


The AFL is set to sound out sacked Essendon football manager Dan Richardson for the vacant head of umpiring role.

Richardson parted with the Bombers in October after three years at the club after joining from the Tigers, becoming the first casualty of the club’s review under new chairman Paul Brasher.

After a restructure due to COVID-19, current umpiring head Grant Williams has moved into a role in the AFL’s talent team, where he will be the national talent development and competitions manager.

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Famous name joins Saints

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How Archie Perkins impressed Essendon list boss Adrian Dodoro


Essendon snapped up Sandringham Dragons product Archie Perkins with pick No.9 in the 2020 AFL Draft.

The Bombers used the second of their three first-round selections on Perkins who caused a stir after telling SEN that he informed interstate clubs of his preference to stay in Victoria.

Perkins averaged 14.2 disposals and 1.7 goals per game for the Dragons in last year’s NAB League, playing through the midfield and spending time forward.

Essendon GM of List and Recruiting, Adrian Dodoro, was impressed by Perkins during their meetings leading up to the draft.

“Archie Perkins will play in the midfield,” Dodoro told SEN Afternoons.

“What impressed us about Archie was the fact that he is a very honest young man.

“What you see is what you get, he’s an individual, he’s not a stresser, he just speaks his mind.

“He’s a really good kid and he’s really, really driven.

“He’s got some exciting attributes – he’s got elite endurance, speed and agility, kicks the ball really well.”

Essendon also selected towering position prospects Nik Cox (pick 8) and Zach Reid (pick 10) with their other first-round picks.







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AFL news: Every club’s biggest issue for 2021 season, Lance Franklin injury, Ben Rutten Essendon style


Every team has its big issue — the one hindrance it hopes doesn’t rear its ugly head again in 2021.

Even the Tigers, the undisputed champions, aren’t immune to concerns leading into next season.

Foxfooty.com.au assesses every club’s standout issue ahead of next season.

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AFL Draft 2020: Trades, North Melbourne not trading Pick 2, teams impacted, analysis, pick swaps, Essendon, top prospects


The top of the draft always shapes the rest of the order – and we’ve just been given a crucial sign into how 2020’s picks will play out.

North Melbourne will take Pick 2 to the national draft and, unless something majorly changes between now and next week, use it on the best-available player, reports the Herald Sun.

Many analysts felt the Kangaroos trading out their top pick made sense because of the position of their list – needing as much talent as possible rather than one potential superstar.

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Swans cut ties with Taylor

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