Essendon's Xavier Duursma at Bombers training on January 22, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Ins and outs


Nate Caddy (No.10 draft pick), Xavier Duursma (trade, Port Adelaide), Todd Goldstein (free agent, North Melbourne), Jade Gresham (free agent, St Kilda), Luamon Lual (No.39 draft pick), Ben McKay (free agent, North Melbourne), Archie Roberts (No.54 draft pick), Vigo Visentini (Rookie Draft)


Massimo D'Ambrosio (trade, Hawthorn), Alastair Lord (delisted), Cian McBride (delisted), Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (retired), Rhett Montgomerie (delisted), Anthony Munkara (delisted), Andrew Phillips (retired), Will Snelling (delisted), James Stewart (delisted), Patrick Voss (delisted), Brandon Zerk-Thatcher (trade, Port Adelaide)

Medical room

While the Bombers are relatively healthy heading into the 2024 season, they do have a couple of injury concerns. Ruckman Sam Draper (groin) only resumed full training in mid February, while midfielder Dylan Shiel (foot) is in a race against time to be fit for the start of the season. Young forward Jaiden Hunter will miss the campaign after rupturing his ACL and Tex Wanganeen is progressing following surgery on his foot at the end of 2023. Ben Hobbs suffered a minor shoulder injury at training on Saturday and is on a modified program. In positive news, former top-10 pick Zach Reid, who missed all of last season, has enjoyed a strong pre-season. 

Sam Draper chats with fans during an Essendon training session at the Hangar on January 22, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Three burning questions

Can Brad Scott's second season bring a drought-breaking finals win? 
Without a finals win since 2004, Essendon went 11-12 and finished 11th in Scott's first season in charge. The Bombers lost seven of their final 10 games, including being thrashed in the final two rounds, but they should be in the group of teams pushing to make the bottom half of the top eight. Whether they're good enough to end the drought remains to be seen.

Will Kyle Langford back it up? 
A revelation for the Bombers as a forward in 2023, Langford booted 51 goals, with Peter Wright, who kicked 53 majors in 2022, missing for the first half of the season after dislocating his shoulder on the eve of the campaign. Just how well the duo performs together this season could shape Essendon's fortunes.


Can recruit, returning young gun help solve defensive woes?
Only three teams – West Coast, North Melbourne and Hawthorn – conceded more points than Essendon in 2023 and the Bombers' work defensively, right across the ground, will play a huge role in deciding what gains they make this year. McKay's arrival from North Melbourne filled a massive need for Essendon with a big defender, while Reid's return to fitness will also be a boost.

Track watch

Of the Bombers' three top-10 picks from the 2020 draft, only Perkins has made his mark so far. But the sight of Reid enjoying a full pre-season has Bombers fans excited, with the towering defender pushing to be in the best 22 come round one. Fellow talls Nik Cox and Harrison Jones have also had good pre-seasons after their injury troubles.

Zach Reid is all smiles at an Essendon training session in January 2024. Picture: Essendon FC

Fantasy lock

Is Zach Merrett (MID, $1,019,000) the most consistent Fantasy player in the game? He has been in the mix as one of the top midfielders in every season since 2016, when he averaged 117.6 in just his third season. Since then, his season average hasn't dipped below 100. If you're looking for a captain option and someone who will be on the park each week, Merrett is your man.

Instant hit

The Bombers were busy through the trade and free agency period, and Ben McKayJade Gresham and Xavier Duursma will be expected to have an immediate impact. Todd Goldstein may, too, given Draper's injury issues that have carried into the new year, while No.10 draft pick Nate Caddy has impressed throughout the pre-season and could also be given a chance early in 2024. 

Todd Goldstein after joining Essendon on October 9, 2023. Picture: Essendon FC

It's a big year for…

High-profile recruits when they arrived at Essendon, Jake Stringer and Dylan Shiel face big seasons with both coming out of contract at the end of 2024. Stringer, 29, and Shiel, 30, have played more than 20 games in a season just once each since arriving at the Bombers in 2018 and 2019 respectively. While both have shown their best is still good – Stringer kicked two bags of four goals last year and Shiel made an impressive start to 2023 – fitness issues have hampered their recent seasons.

Pass mark

After welcoming plenty of experience in the off-season, the Bombers should be eyeing finals in 2024. A drought-breaking finals win would be a huge boost, but reaching September in Scott's second season would be a good step.

Best 23 for 2024

B: Andrew McGrath, Ben McKay, Jordan Ridley
Mason Redman, Zach Reid, Nic Martin
Xavier Duursma, Zach Merrett, Sam Durham
Archie Perkins, Peter Wright, Jake Stringer
Jade Gresham, Kyle Langford, Jye Menzie
Sam Draper, Darcy Parish, Will Setterfield
Jye Caldwell, Harrison Jones, Ben Hobbs, Dylan Shiel, Dyson Heppell
Elijah Tsatas, Todd Goldstein, Matt Guelfi