Coaching great Kevin Sheedy says Essendon’s arch-rivals Hawthorn are the model to follow to help the Bombers re-build their AFL empire after the crushing effect of the supplements saga.
Speaking at a buoyant open training session ahead of the club’s season-opener with Sydney on Saturday, Sheedy said Tuesday’s not guilty verdict for 34 past and present players changed the mood of the club “enormously”.
But Essendon still face a formidable effort to return to their glory days.
With a 50-year history in the game, Sheedy named two events that compared to the supplements saga; the last days of Fitzroy and the destructive, failed merger talks between Hawthorn and Melbourne.
He said the Bombers must now rise like Hawthorn have done since the 1996 crisis.
“The Melbourne-Hawthorn merger, you’ve seen how Hawthorn came back from that and regrouped,” he said.
“Re-planned, re-grouped – Essendon have to do that.
“To me, that’s one of the reasons I came back.”
Sheedy returned to the club he took to four premierships earlier this year in an off-field senior management role after a stint at expansion club Greater Western Sydney.
While he said Essendon club could recover “within a year”, he also suggested it was time for the Bombers-bashing to end.
“The Essendon footy club has obviously been smashed financially, kicked out of the finals, taken out of the draft,” he said.
“It’s been probably the biggest penalty in AFL history.
“They’ve copped their decent whack … deservedly so.
“But if you keep whipping the horse you’re going to go nowhere.”
But Sheedy’s message doesn’t apply to ASADA, backing their right to appeal, as well as the anti-doping body’s role in sport.
“That’s their decision and that’s fair enough,” he said.
“It’s very important that we have our sport in this country, which is so dear to us, really running well.
“The good thing about all of this, if there’s one good thing, is that it will actually re-shape … how we look at team sports with ASADA and WADA right throughout the world.”
The 67-year-old said of all of Tuesday’s dramatic events, senior coach James Hird’s apology was very significant.
“It was really good to see Hirdy apologise to the fans and the game, I thought that was really important comment for him to feel,” he said.
“He doesn’t show his emotions that much, he’s a very inward person.”
Around 500 fans packed the club’s Tullamarine base for the open training session.