Ben McKay handballs during Essendon's game against St Kilda in R3, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

ESSENDON legend Matthew Lloyd says big-name recruit Ben McKay has brought a confidence to the Bombers' defence that has been lacking in recent years.

McKay was one of Essendon's best in their nail-biting win over St Kilda on Saturday, finishing with 13 intercept possessions and nine marks.

Having made a big-money free agency move from North Melbourne late last year, McKay is rated equal 10th in the League for intercept possessions (8.3 per game) and equal fifth for intercept marks (4.3 per game) after his first three games in Bombers' colours.

The Saints were restricted to just nine goals on Saturday, just the seventh time in 48 matches stretching back to the start of 2021 that Essendon has conceded less than 10 goals.

Having ranked 15th for points conceded in 2023 and 16th the year before, the Bombers now have some more stability down back, Lloyd says.

"I've never been sure about (McKay), but what he has brought ... is confidence," Lloyd told Access All Areas.


"Poor Brandon Zerk-Thatcher (who is now at Port Adelaide), how many times has Tommy Hawkins kicked big bags on him? Jayden Leverde has had to play undersized for so long.

"McKay was the best player in the market and he's performed super well in this first month for the Bombers. 

"Without him on the weekend, they wouldn't have won the game."

Lloyd was quick to add the Saints made it easy for McKay and the Essendon defence at times due to their poor ball use, pointing to the absence of spearhead Max King as a big loss.

Ben McKay celebrates Essendon's win over St Kilda in R3, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

"The Saints ball use absolutely killed them. I think not having Max King, they lacked direction in the game," he said.

"They just couldn't score and that gets deflating. As a backman, they were exhausted and out of their feet by the end of the game because the ball just kept coming back at them."

The Bombers' defence could get an extra boost for their Gather Round clash against Port Adelaide on Friday night, with Jordan Ridley hopeful of being available after a pre-season quad injury.