ESSENDON coach John Worsfold has fired back at "shallow" criticism of his coaching style, saying discussion around his demeanour during the Bombers' disastrous loss to the Western Bulldogs is a "cheap shot".
Worsfold also said he was "fully committed" to coaching next year, and that he hadn't sought assurances about his job with Essendon's hierarchy despite its fight to remain in the top-eight.
There were parts in the game where I sat quietly, I can't talk non-stop, and they've been highlighted - John Worsfold
The 2006 West Coast premiership coach was questioned for his lack of outward emotion while sitting on the interchange bench in Essendon's 104-point loss to the Bulldogs last Saturday.
A calm John Worsfold speaks to the team during the horror loss to the Bulldogs. Picture: AFL Photos
But he said the vision highlighted didn't capture his discussions with fellow coaches, players and staff at other periods of the contest, while saying he didn't believe making the finals was necessarily a benchmark for the Bombers.
"I've got a clear pathway on how I go about my job and what we're doing and I'm really excited about a lot of the things these players are learning and where we're going. That's it in a nutshell," Worsfold said on Wednesday.
The reality is we've played two poor games coming off a really good six or seven weeks of footy - John Worsfold
"The fact that other people don’t like that I, for some parts of the game on the weekend, I sat quietly in the highlighted bits of vision, which was maybe two per cent of the game, people can target me on that. That's pretty shallow.
"Has anyone looked back on the whole 110 minutes of what I was doing? I was in constant communication with the coaches box, constantly supporting the players, challenging them.
"There were parts in the game where I sat quietly, I can't talk non-stop, and they've been highlighted. It's a cheap shot, but that's fine. [Just] a glancing blow."
Essendon's back-to-back thrashings at the hands of Port Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs have its finals hopes precariously placed.
It plays Fremantle at Optus Stadium on Saturday night and will then face Collingwood in the final round in a bid to secure a finals spot.
Worsfold, who met with Essendon chief executive Xavier Campbell on Monday night, said the conjecture about his future with the club did not concern him. He is contracted for next season.
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"Not really, other than understanding I can't control the speculation. What's the reality? That's more the question. The speculation is fine. If people didn't talk about teams that were going through a rough trot then what are they going to talk about?," he said.
"The reality is we've played two poor games coming off a really good six or seven weeks of footy. The reality is I'm contracted for next year, I'm fully committed to this footy club and enjoying the challenge of getting the group to where it wants to get to."
Worsfold said the Bombers' list isn't underachieving, but noted the club expects to be playing finals this season.
It last made the finals in 2017, when it was trounced by Sydney in the elimination final, and it hasn't won a final since 2004 – the longest drought of any AFL club.
"It's called competition and sport. I'm really excited about playing finals footy this year, but I'm really excited about playing this week," he said.
The Bombers will have a strengthened squad to face the Dockers, with Darcy Parish (concussion) and Aaron Francis (neck) to return, while key defender Michael Hurley (shoulder) is also a chance.
Worsfold said he expected Jake Stringer to be available despite a tight hamstring.
Ex-Dog Jake Stringer and Bailey Smith have words during the Dons' clash with the Bulldogs. Picture: AFL Photos
Stringer trained lightly on Wednesday, including doing some goalkicking, away from the main group, although Shaun McKernan, who had some concerns with his hamstring, is cleared to play.
Adam Saad, who missed last week with a hamstring injury, was also part of the main training group.