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Neeld no scapegoat for Dons' woes: Worsfold

John Worsfold says his job is in no doubt - AFL,John Worsfold,Essendon Bombers
John Worsfold says his job is in no doubt

ESSENDON coach John Worsfold has had to defend his position at the club after denying Mark Neeld has been made a scapegoat for the Bombers' poor start to the season.

The Bombers' decision to re-sign Worsfold for two more years after round one this year, a deal that would tie him to the club until the end of 2020, has come under scrutiny after his side's 2-6 beginning to the year.

Further heat has come on his role after the sudden departure of game performance manager Mark Neeld this week, with the Bombers making that position redundant.

Asked if he felt his own job was safe in the wake of the shock exit of Neeld, Worsfold said everyone at Essendon was on the same page.

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"I'm really confident with my communication with the board and [chief executive] Xavier (Campbell) at this footy club that we're not happy with where we're at, but we're on a clear pathway to where we want to get to," Worsfold said.

"We've all got clear roles to play in achieving that, so I see a club that's pretty strongly aligned and focused on doing the hard work to get to where we want to get to."

A prickly Worsfold also denied reports of communication problems inside the Bombers' coaching box and clarified Neeld's role at the club, saying the former Melbourne coach did not have ultimate say over Essendon's game style and strategy.

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He said Neeld had not worn all the blame for Essendon's disastrous start to a season they expected to go much better after the recruitment of three key players last year and a finals appearance in 2017.

"No, I don't think so. I worked really closely with Mark and enjoyed working with him. He's got a huge amount to offer both in football administration or the general business world with his character," he said.

"I can't control perceptions of other people and I can't control how people want to write things. People will put things in a context to angle it the way they wanted, so I'm fully supportive of Mark's decision.

"I consider him a friend and I'm rapt with everything he's done to support me in my time at the Essendon Football Club and I'll continue to support him in [whatever] pathway he goes."

After Saturday's defeat to the previously winless Carlton, Worsfold lamented the Bombers' lack of a 'trademark' in their football so far this season.

It is a sentiment that has been echoed by All Australian midfielder and Bombers' vice-captain Zach Merrett, who said they are playing without a "ruthless and hard" streak.

Worsfold said finding that style had to driven by the players. "In the history of all the great teams I've ever read about or been a part of, the great teams are player-led and the good teams are coach led. That's just the way it is, and we want to be a great team," he said.

Essendon could turn to some new faces after four straight defeats, with high-profile recruit Jake Stringer no certainty to face the Cats on Saturday.

Worsfold said the former Bulldog would "possibly" play. "He's in line for selection," he said.

The Bombers have been caught in a controversy out of their defeat to the Blues, with Mark Baguley and Carlton opponent Jed Lamb trading sledges during the contest.

It flared up on Tuesday, when Baguley denied he had made remarks about Lamb's father, who was killed in a brutal attack before Lamb was drafted into the AFL.

Baguley said Lamb had made jibes about his appearance, believed to relate to a birthmark on the Bomber defender's face.
Worsfold said he had not spoken to Baguley about it and did not know specifically what he said, but said the comment had nothing to do with Lamb's father's death.

"If Mark Baguley did not know anything about it, he couldn't have commented on it," he said.

"I don't know what [Baguley] said. I only heard about it last night, to be honest, because it wasn't an issue for us here because I hadn't heard about it. All I can go on is what Mark has come out [and said]," he said.

"Jed made a personal insult to 'Baggers' and got an insult back."

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