Whatever happens to Essendon this season, John Worsfold is determined that they will be a wallow-free zone.
It is a lesson the new Bombers coach has learned the hard way over the last decade.
This time 10 years ago, Worsfold was coaching West Coast at the start of an AFL premiership season.
Then came their precipitous decline and Ben Cousins’ downfall, followed by a rebuild and Worsfold’s departure.
Last year he pitched in to help Adelaide’s football department cope with the tragic death of coach Phil Walsh.
Now he is coaching Essendon, who enter season four of the fallout from the calamitous supplements saga with a squad missing 12 banned players.
“Having a clear focus for where you want to get to is what I’ve learned so much over the last 10-12 years,” he told AAP.
“If you get bogged down and dwell on the situation you’re in, it really slows up your ability to get to where you want.
“You can wallow for years in that if you want – people are quite happy to let you wallow.
“But people want to see you fight through and have a clear focus on what you’re fighting for.
“That’s what we’re trying to portray at Essendon.”
It was no great surprise that the bottom fell out of Essendon’s season last year once WADA announced its appeal.
The slump became a rout and it cost coach James Hird his job.
But Worsfold knows it cannot continue.
However this season’s team of kids, 10 replacements and a smattering of stars perform – and no-one really knows – Worsfold is adamant it must be steadfast.
To that end, Essendon had meetings in February where clear guidelines were set down for the team.
Wins? They would be great, but they may well be a bonus.
Attitude? Being accountable? Challenging each other? Development? They are non-negotiables.
Worsfold is also doing an admirable job of selling the message, sticking to his goal of Essendon returning to prominence by 2018 regardless of what happens to their 12 banned players after this season.
Rather than play it safe with their game style, Worsfold also wants Essendon to start working this year on scoring more and defending better.
To state the obvious, they ended up being terrible at either end of the ground last season.
“To win a premiership you have to be exceptional at both areas of the game – offence and defence,” he said.
“So why not practise it now? Why shut up shop?”
Worsfold also wants all players to earn their senior berths.
As much as Darcy Parish and Zach Merrett are Essendon’s future, if Ryan Crowley continues to show he deserves a game then he will be picked.
“Part of development is players fighting to earn their right to play AFL footy and not just be handed games,” Worsfold said.
“They have to show they’re up for it.”
Whatever happens, however challenging this year becomes, Worsfold wants his unique team to make its mark.
After all, this 44-man act is showing for one season only.
“It’s not about why we’re here, as in how we got here, it’s about what we want to do this year,” he said.
“They’ve been really good with that – they’ve set some really clear guidelines around how they want to go about it.
“Now we’ll all hold ourselves accountable to that.”
Coach: John Worsfold
Captain: Brendon Goddard
Last five years: 8-11-9-7-15
Premierships: 16 (1897, 1901, 1911-12, 1923-24, 1942, 1946, 1949-50, 1962, 1965, 1984-85, 1993, 2000)
Key five: Brendon Goddard, Zach Merrett, Joe Daniher, Ryan Crowley, David Zaharakis.
One to watch: Zach Merrett. The 23-year-old midfielder is at the heart of Essendon’s future – he has skill, grunt and is locked into a long-term deal. Bombers fans most likely won’t have much to cheer about this season, but Merrett’s continued development will give them hope.
Ins: Craig Bird (Sydney), Mitch Brown (Geelong), Yestin Eades (North Ballarat U18), Aaron Francis (West Adelaide), Michael Hartley (Coburg), Matthew Leuenberger (Brisbane), Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (Essendon VFL), Shaun McKernan (Essendon rookie), Alex Morgan (Oakleigh U18), Gach Nyuon (Dandenong U18), Darcy Parish (Geelong U18), Mason Redman (Glenelg), Tom Wallis (father-son).
Outs: Kurt Aylett (delisted), Alex Browne (delisted), Jake Carlisle (St Kilda), Paul Chapman (retired), Lauchlan Dalgleish (delisted), Dustin Fletcher (retired), Jonathan Giles (West Coast), Elliott Kavanagh (delisted), Jake Melksham (Melbourne), Nick O’Brien (delisted), Ariel Steinberg (delisted), Jason Winderlich (retired).
List changes due to doping suspensions
Replacements: Ryan Crowley (Fremantle), Matt Dea (Richmond), Nathan Grima (North Melbourne), Sam Grimley (Hawthorn), Mark Jamar (Melbourne), James Kelly (Geelong), Sam Michael (Brisbane), James Polkinghorne (Brisbane), Jonathan Simpkin (Hawthorn), Mathew Stokes (Geelong).
Suspended: Tom Bellchambers, Travis Colyer, Dyson Heppell, Michael Hibberd, Heath Hocking, Cale Hooker, Ben Howlett, Michael Hurley, David Myers, Tayte Pears, Brent Stanton, Jobe Watson.
B: Mark Baguley, Mitch Brown, Courtenay Dempsey
HB: Jason Ashby, James Gwilt, Martin Gleeson
C: David Zaharakis, Ryan Crowley, Brendon Goddard
HF: Mathew Stokes, Sam Grimley , Adam Cooney
F: Jackson Merrett, Joe Daniher, Travis Colyer
R: Shaun McKernan, James Kelly, Zach Merrett
I: Patrick Ambrose, Matthew Leuenberger, Darcy Parish, Craig Bird
Predicted finish: 17th
Betting (William Hill)
To win the flag: $501
To make the top eight: $15