Essendon coach James Hird says axed ruckman Tom Bellchambers and his ruck replacement, Jake Carlisle, both have bright futures at the AFL club but for very different reasons.
Carlisle is one of 2015’s hottest free agents and has been the subject of much speculation about his future.
The 23-year-old key position player has been swung between forward and defence in his short Bombers career and has been named as ruck for Essendon’s trip to play West Coast on Saturday.
After sharing dinner on Tuesday night, Hird slammed suggestions that Carlisle is unhappy playing in the forward line, where both coach and player see his long-term future.
“Jake’s committed to being a star forward and that’s what he wants to do,” Hird insisted.
“We talked about footy and where things are at, his commitment to the club and where he likes to play.
“Out of his mouth was, ‘I want to be the best forward in the competition and I want to do it at Essendon’.”
Hird said he wouldn’t be putting pressure on Carlisle to re-sign, saying “he and his manager will work towards getting it sorted out”.
But it’s not so simple for Bellchambers, with the Bombers opting to play no specialist ruck instead of the Tasmanian in the West.
Hird has publicly asked him for improvement over the last month, but hasn’t seen it and instead has swung the axe.
With former GWS ruck Jonathan Giles in the reserves and ex-Crow Shaun McKernan stranded on the rookie list, Hird said he was prepared to face the Eagles without an experienced ruck.
“We just didn’t think we had a ruckman that was in good enough form really,” he said.
“Giles has been OK in the reserves but just needs to play a bit better, and Tom hasn’t been great from the last three or four weeks and needs to go back and get some form in the VFL and hopefully come back in.
“We’ve got a plan that probably won’t stop Nic Natanui because no-one seems to stop him, but hopefully negates some of his influence.
“It’s a big challenge, West Coast are in really good form … but we’re confident we’ve got the team that can take care of the job.”
Hird insisted this wasn’t the end of the line for Bellchambers despite being out of contract at season’s end, with a talk on Thursday laying down some markers on what he needed to do.
“It’s to be a ruckman that wins a fair share of tap outs, gets enough clearances, can defend and is aggressive around the ground,” he said.
“His career is going to be a very good career, he’s going to be a very good ruckman.”