Essendon coaching great Kevin Sheedy says the Bombers can sow the seeds of their next AFL flag in the depths of their doping despair.
The Bombers’ playing list has been gutted by the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision to sideline 12 players for 2016 for violating anti-doping rules.
The club is still coming to terms with the ruling, but must find replacements for key players like Jobe Watson, Dyson Heppell, Michael Hurley and Cale Hooker from outside the AFL system.
The Bombers are set to be the youngest and least inexperienced side in the competition this year and has been made the short-priced favourite by bookmakers to claim their first wooden spoon since 1933.
But if morale is going to be a problem in 2016, one suspects Sheedy’s presence will be priceless.
The long-term coach was lured back to the club last season in a non-coaching role and rallied behind the team at Thursday’s open training session.
In an impromptu address to fans and journalists at the club’s Tullamarine training base, Sheedy said he’d seen first-hand the benefits of giving games to young talents.
“I remember back in 1992 when we started playing kids, and brought in kids in the early part of ’93 and we didn’t expect to win a premiership and we won by eight goals,” he said.
“Morale at that time was a bit sort of flat.
“It’s about people believing, people working together and the confidence grows.”
Sheedy led three different Bomber generations to flags in 27 years as coach, before coaching GWS for their first two seasons.
In between cheers from the gathered Dons faithful, he said if the Giants could take three seasons to break even in their win-loss by blooding youngsters, Essendon could do too.
“That’s what we did at the Giants and they’re starting to really benefit from that last year with 11 wins and 11 losses,” he said.
“It’ll be up to a great effort by John Worsfold and the coaching staff to get the team right for this year.”
Sheedy said sidelined veterans Watson and Brent Stanton would consider the difficult question of whether to retire from different perspectives.
“That’s up to the individual players … every player is a different person, how they see life.”