Essendon was unable to build on a promising end to last year, with the Bombers winning three matches less than in 2022 to fall back into the bottom five.
BY THE NUMBERS
W-L-D (%): 5-13 (81.7%)
Players used: 57
Played every match: 5 – Billy Cootee, Lewis Hayes, Alastair Lord, Tom Phillips and Patrick Voss
AFL players used: 25
Debutants: 16 – Luca Alessio, Jack Brown, Jack Cleaver, Nik Cox, Carlos Egan, Matthew Foley, Lewis Hayes, Jaiden Hunter, Michael Kiraly, Will Madden, Callum McCarty, Rhett Montgomerie, Jake Moorhead, Anthony Munkara, Mahmoud Taha and Elijah Tsatas
Best and Fairest: 1st: Patrick Voss, 2nd: Rhett Montgomerie, 3rd: Billy Cootee, 4th: Nick Bryan, 5th: Joel Fitzgerald
J.J. Liston Trophy votes: Nick Bryan (9), Elijah Tsatas (6), Ben Hobbs (4)
Coaches MVP votes: Nick Bryan (29), Ben Hobbs (18), Elijah Tsatas (17)
VFL Team of the Year representatives: Nil
Goalkickers: Patrick Voss (30), Tex Wanganeen (18), John Jorgensen (17)
(Averages – minimum 6 matches)
Disposals: Elijah Tsatas (25.0), Massimo D’Ambrosio (20.4), Quinton Narkle (20.3)
Kicks: Joel Fitzgerald (14.5), Elijah Tsatas (14.1), Kaine Baldwin (13.9)
Handballs: Brad Bernacki (11.7), Elijah Tsatas (10.9), Callum McCarty (9.6)
Marks: Rhett Montgomerie (8.7), Kaine Baldwin (7.3), Nick Bryan (5.4)
Tackles: Alwyn Davey (5.4), Riley Loton (4.8), Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (4.8)
Hitouts: Nick Bryan (36.8), Josh Hotchkin (24.3), Cian McBride (3.6)
Clearances: Elijah Tsatas (6.7), Nick Bryan (5.8), Quinton Narkle (4.9)
Inside-50s: Nick Bryan (4.4), Elijah Tsatas (3.7), Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (3.5)
Rebound-50s: Kaine Baldwin (5.4), Massimo D’Ambrosio (5.2), Lewis Hayes (4.4)
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Hopes and expectations rose when they smashed GWS by 80 points in Round 1 and they again showed what they are capable of at their best with a stunning upset of eventual premier Gold Coast in their return to Windy Hill in Round 15. Ran Werribee to three goals and also pushed Collingwood, Richmond, Williamstown and Southport (away) to single figures and North Melbourne to 11 points. Patrick Voss had a terrific season in attack to win the best and fairest, Billy Cootee had another good year as a young skipper and ruckman Nick Bryan is ready for higher responsibilities.
WHAT WENT WRONG
After that big win over the Giants in the opening round, the Bombers turned in a stinker against Sandringham the following week. Responded to beat the Bullants in their next match but proceeded to drop their next nine matches, albeit with some solid efforts spliced in there. The no-name midfield that sparked their late rally in 2022 didn’t kick on as well as would be hoped, Cootee aside, with the other three all spending at least six weeks out of the team. Quinton Narkle’s selection in the Mid-Season Draft by Port Adelaide also cost the Bombers their key recruit when they could least afford it.
The Bombers would be disappointed with their results after such a good start to the year, winning three matches less than in 2022 to fall back into the bottom five. Their backline was their backbone with Lewis Hayes, Alastair Lord, Joel Fitzgerald and Rhett Montgomerie all performing well as the Bombers conceded more than 100 points on only four occasions. But apart from Voss’ 30 goals, they had only four other players reach double figures and none better than youngster Tex Wanganeen’s 18.