John Worsfold has accepted Essendon’s bedevilling for the AFL season ahead, but insists the club can have a competitive year.
Worsfold has the unenviable task of coaching the Bombers in 2016 with 12 of their most senior and talented players on the sidelines due to anti-doping violations.
The premiership-winning coach, who agreed to take on the role while the players’ fate hung in the balance, has been dealt a most challenging hand on his return to senior coaching.
Expectations are now rock-bottom for the club and Worsfold struck an ominous note when discussing the year ahead.
“It’s possible we don’t win the wooden spoon,” he said.
“We will be aiming above that. Start with high hopes.”
In sharp contrast to the atmosphere of unrepentant defiance that characterised the club until now, Worsfold appears to have turned the page.
At an open training session on Thursday, the 47-year-old was sharply focussed on the task at hand; coaching the club.
He has already decided his captain for 2016.
Worsfold agreed Brendan Goddard was an “obvious choice” for the role, and said an announcement on the role would happen soon.
Without the banned dozen, there’s an alarming drop-off in age and proven on-field ability at the Bombers for what looms as a difficult year.
But Worsfold insisted he wasn’t blandished by the CAS decision and came into the role prepared for the worst.
“There was never any guarantee that the CAS decision was going to go either way,” he said.
“I’ve come here to Essendon to deal with their current situation and we knew that was going to be determined a lot by the outcome of that.”
Worsfold said he would draw on his experiences at AFL rivals Adelaide – where he was drafted in to provide additional support to players in the wake of coach Phil Walsh’s death.
“I’ve had a lot of experiences through my sporting career and my personal life that we deal through events that happen that we don’t want happen but we’ve got to deal with it,” he said.
“I understand you can get back out there and bounce back and go well.
“When you’re coaching a team that’s expected to play off in a grand final, that’s a massive challenge.
“This is a challenge in a different light but not one that I’m nervous or worried about, one that I’m really excited about.”
The AFL has allowed Essendon to bring in an additional 10 players this season, and Worsfold said their VFL list was likely to be their first port of call to top up their list.
“We’ve got some players that we know pretty well in our VFL system,” he said.
“So (recruitment) is under way and we are hopeful to move with that as quickly as we can.”