Michael Hartley is a prime example of the silver lining to Essendon’s AFL season of woe, according to captain Brendon Goddard.
Hartley gained the sort of experience that most aspiring defenders could only dream of on the weekend, when he played on Lance Franklin.
Franklin booted six goals in Sydney’s 81-point win at the SCG.
But Hartley earned plenty of praise given the quality and quantity of delivery to the most potent forward in the league.
Hartley, formerly on Collingwood’s rookie list, was taken with pick No.68 in last year’s draft.
“Harts did a pretty good job and Harts himself a year ago wouldn’t have thought he’d be playing on Lance Franklin,” Goddard said on Monday.
“It’s a hypothetical but if the other guys (12 suspended players) were here too, he probably wouldn’t have been been doing that.
“So there’s the silver lining in difficult circumstances.
“You can’t tell me this week or going forward, he isn’t going to be better for it.”
The Bombers, whose only win of the year came in round two when they shocked Melbourne, remain short-priced favourites to collect the wooden spoon.
Goddard noted Hartley wouldn’t be the only young gun to learn some lessons from the Swans’ second-half surge.
“It can only be beneficial … against quality opposition, a top four-team with past premiership players in it,” he said.
The Bombers are fully expected to suffer another heavy loss on Saturday, when they face North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium.
Goddard expected his young teammates to “compete” against the undefeated Kangaroos and every side.
But the 30-year-old wanted to see some clear improvement as the season unfolded.
“I’d hope and I think the longer the year goes on, that we’re going to be competitive for longer,” he said.
Goddard added it would be a challenge to manage the squad, with top-up recruits Jonathan Simpkin and Mathew Stokes having both suffered hamstring injuries in the past fortnight.
“Those guys coming off a limited base … they were going to hit a lull at some stage and those two were the first to be shot by the sniper, so to speak,” he said.
Jason Tuazon-McCheyne, president of Essendon’s LGBTI supporter group, addressed the players about homophobia and other issues on Monday.
Goddard, who admitted to being naive and judgmental in his younger days, suggested the league was ready for its first openly gay player.
“I believe he’d be welcome with open arms,” he said.