Essendon’s replacements are making their mark, with John Worsfold saying they are no longer considered AFL top ups and Brendon Goddard pubicly thanking them.
The Bombers have brought in eight players so far to replace the 12 who are serving anti-doping suspensions, while former Brisbane tall utility Sam Michael is also training with them.
Geelong premiership players James Kelly and Mathew Stokes, Fremantle tagger Ryan Crowley and Sydney premiership midfielder Craig Bird are among the newcomers.
“We’re not referring to them as top ups now – they’re players, they’re listed,” coach Worsfold said.
“They’re part of our squad.
“Their attitude has been outstanding, as you can imagine, they’re professionals.
“Most of them have had really long, successful careers (and) they bring huge experience to our young group.”
Worsfold said they were still looking, in particular for a key position player.
Goddard, who is captain while Jobe Watson serves his doping suspension, admitted it had been odd to train with a group of players who so recently were opponents.
“It’s been weird and it’s a unique situation,” he said.
“It has taken a little bit to get our head around.
“We have great people – in a way, I haven’t really publicly thanked those guys, because they’re coming to help the footy club and more importantly, help the younger guys develop.
“They’re doing a pretty big favour for the footy club, in a way.”
Goddard said Crowley, notorious for his tagging tactics, was a great teammate and someone he hated to play against.
“I’m old enough to realise that a lot of the guys on the field on the field aren’t what they’re really like off it,” he said.
Speaking before Friday training, Worsfold said that Stokes, fellow replacement Mark Jamar and former Brisbane ruckman Matthew Leuenberger would not play in their first NAB Challenge game against Carlton.
He added No.6 draft pick Aaron Francis has “a minor strain” and also probably would miss the Carlton game.
Worsfold said the veteran recuits would ease the pressure on their young lineup.
“The experience we’ve added on … means we’re not pressure into playing young kids if they’re not really ready,” he said.
“In saying that, there’s definitely going to be opportunities for those guys to play AFL footy and we definitely expect them to develop.”