Jordan Ridley celebrates during the round 11 match between Richmond and Essendon at the MCG, May 25, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

ESSENDON defender Jordan Ridley believes there is plenty of improvement left in the second-placed Bombers this season as he eyes more game time alongside new defensive partner Ben McKay.

Ridley made a stunning comeback in Saturday's 12-point win over Richmond, saying a cautious approach to his rehabilitation after repeat quadriceps injuries had helped him shine on return.

The 25-year-old was best afield against the Tigers at the MCG, with game-high tallies of 31 disposals, 14 intercepts, three contested marks and 759 metres gained.

Ridley, who had been sidelined since round 19 last year, felt he was ready to play a fortnight earlier but was grateful in hindsight for being held back.

"It's been a long time and it was a pretty challenging period, especially the first three months of the year," Ridley told reporters on Monday.

"The recurrence of the same injury was really frustrating, but to get back out there and get through a full game and have a good win as well was really good.


"I was a bit (nervous). I had half (a game) in VFL the week before, so that certainly alleviated a bit of the nerves.

"I did everything I could and put all the work in, but you never really know how you're going to hold up until you get out there."

Ridley's return put the Bombers' backline almost at full strength as he lined up for the first time alongside boom recruit and former North Melbourne defender McKay.

The pair had an existing relationship, having trained together over summer in recent years.


"We worked pretty well together and seemed to have a lot of chemistry out there, even though we haven't really played much footy together," Ridley said.

"We talk about the game with each other throughout the week all the time and I'm certainly glad he's across now.

"For a couple of years there throughout the off-season I was trying to put in a good word that maybe Essendon would be a good fit for him and it's worked out that way."

Essendon's (8-2-1) latest triumph extended its run without a loss to seven matches ahead of an interstate trip to take on Gold Coast (6-5) on Sunday.


The strong start has raised hopes among long-suffering supporters that the Bombers' finals win drought could come to an end this September.

"The second you think that you've clocked something, the AFL has a funny way of bringing you back down to earth pretty quickly," Ridley said.

"It's just for us to keep improving, keep building on what we're doing and double down on the processes that have got us this far."


Ridley, the Bombers' 2020 best-and-fairest winner, said he had seen "great improvement across the group".

"The most exciting thing is the younger wave of players have really stepped up," he said.

"That's crucial to any team that's trying to improve year on year, those younger players going to new levels in their game.

"Guys like Jye Caldwell and Sam Durham have been super this year and it's been great to watch."