‘Dons must aim for next AFL flag

‘Dons must aim for next AFL flag

Essendon will stay focussed this year on working towards their next AFL premiership, regardless of how far away it seems.

Despite the devastating CAS verdict, new coach John Worsfold is adamant their 2016 campaign will not be a wasted season.

As the banned Essendon players still on AFL lists knocked back Mick Malthouse’s offer to coach them through their ban, the Bombers are about to start a season of great unknowns.

Their first NAB Challenge match on Sunday will feature three or four of the top-ups brought in to replace the 12 players now under doping bans.

Worsfold said he had not changed his view from when he came to Essendon, that his job is to develop them into a team that can challenge for a premiership.

He said last month’s CAS verdict had rocked the club to its core, but they will not wallow in pity.

“We’re building the squad’s capabilities to become one of the top teams in the competition as soon as possible,” he told SEN.

“We’re going to stay focussed on that.

“We’re not going to worry too much about what the scoreboard says, but focus more on how we’re going about things and where we can see improvement and then working on improving those areas.”

Former Essendon coach Mark Thompson also said on Wednesday that the club must use this season to start building the nucleus of their next premiership lineup.

Worsfold is rapt with the attitude of the nine top-ups and said the players already at the club can learn plenty from those veterans.

“After the really strong disappointment of the decision we had handed down, (there was) the feeling that the year was just going to slide by and be a bit of a wasted year for their careers,” he said.

“They’re now back, really clear that they can make something of this year.

“They can learn a lot about the game, they can learn from some of the experienced players who have come from great clubs to join us.

“They can train hard and improve themselves as footballers as well throughout the year and become a really tight-knit group.

“So that’s been a big focus.”

Worsfold also wants the 12 banned players to return to Essendon next season.

While most players will train through the banned period, some will spend their time overseas or focus on their careers after football through study.

“Their No.1 focus, from what I can gather, is that they want to be fresh at the end of the year when they’re ready to step back into footy again (with) a degree of fitness, without being super-fit,” Worsfold said.

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