Essendon interim coach Matthew Egan is confident constant speculation over Jake Carlisle’s playing future won’t distract him or the Bombers as they attempt to finish a disappointing AFL season on a high note.
The 23-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season, with North Melbourne the latest in a succession of clubs linked to a bid to lure him after coach Brad Scott’s open declaration this week of the Kangaroos’ interest.
“I don’t think much distracts Jake, to be honest – he’s just a laidback character,” Egan said on Friday. “Nothing seems to faze him – he’s that sort of character, so I think he will be fine with it all.
“I think every club would want (him) in their team; he’s a 23-year-old key position player that can play forward and back.
“(But) he seems really engaged with the group. I think he’s in a good frame of mind. He’s a required player here; he’s obviously a real talent for us, so we’re hoping he stays.”
Essendon’s clash with Richmond at the MCG on Saturday night is a tale of the old and the new, with triple-premiership forward Paul Chapman retiring after 280 games and Irishman Conor McKenna set to make his AFL debut.
Chapman, 33, has struggled with form and injury in his 16th AFL season, announcing this week his 29th game with the Bombers since crossing from Geelong will be his last.
“He’s a big-game player and I reckon in his retirement game something could happen,” Egan told the club’s website.
“So I’m hoping he just contributes and enjoys himself because he’s had a fantastic career. He’s been an absolute superstar of the game.”
Egan described McKenna as an excitement machine who will add much-needed pace and tackling pressure to the struggling Bombers who sit in 15th spot with five wins after last week’s narrow loss to Gold Coast.
The finals-bound Tigers will be without skipper Trent Cotchin, who has a back injury. Steve Morris has been dropped, with Damien Hardwick opting to bring in Dylan Grimes and Matt Thomas.
“I think they generate most of their scores from really good defence and punishing turnovers in their back half,” Egan said of Richmond. “Our defence was quite poor (last week) and we’re playing against a team that has kicked 45 goals in the last two weeks, so our defence is going to have to be a lot stronger than it was (against the Suns).”