ESSENDON chairman Lindsay Tanner has urged the club to move forward and make something of 2016 as the Bombers face the most challenging year of their history.
The new Bombers boss, who took over from former chairman Paul Little in December last year, addressed the club's supporters, players and staff at its season launch on Wednesday.
The Bombers were struck a devastating blow in January when 12 of their players, including captain Jobe Watson and stars Michael Hurley and Dyson Heppell, were hit with 12-month bans for doping breaches.
Since then the club has recruited 10 top-up players to fill the void, but it heads into round one of the home and away season as clear favourites to win the wooden spoon for the first time since 1933.
Tanner said the club had chosen to stop commenting on the Court of Arbitration for Sport's decision to suspend the players, instead focusing on what lies ahead.
"Tonight is not about dwelling any more on what has happened in the past. As a club, we must look to the future," Tanner said.
Tanner highlighted the club's priorities for 2016, including supporting all 34 suspended players, protecting the club from the financial fallout of the CAS decision, strengthening the club's reputation and further engaging past players.
He said the Bombers, under new coach John Worsfold, would also focus on being a "competitive, resilient and professional football team" despite the obstacles they are likely to confront with a line-up missing many of its key members.
"We believe that if we deliver on these priorities in the short-term, the club will be in the best possible position in the long-term," Tanner said.
As part of its bid to involve its former players more, Essendon greats Terry and Neale Daniher addressed the crowd at the season launch. Both are a part of the club's new membership campaign, calling on supporters to 'Make a Stand'.
Brendon Goddard has been named stand-in captain for the club in Watson's absence, and Tanner said the midfielder, alongside Worsfold, would provide strength for the club to make gains out of 2016.
"We know we are going to face many challenges this year, both on and off the field, but with your leadership and fortitude we are confident the team will take many positive steps forward this season, regardless of what happens on the scoreboard," he said.
"There is no doubt there are going to be many great stories that will be written this season as we start the next chapter in our history.
"I know the depth of passion and commitment that Essendon people have for their club, and that's why I am confident we will build a stronger and more successful football club for many years to come."
Essendon opens its home and away season on Saturday, March 26 when it travels to face Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium.
After beating Carlton in the opening round of the NAB Challenge, the Bombers have suffered heavy back-to-back losses in previous weeks, with successive thrashings at the hands of Geelong and West Coast.