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Bombers need to change, but should they go 'nuclear'?

Worsfold 'confident' with what he's built at Essendon John Worsfold says his conversations with the club are about next year and where the club is going

THERE is a strong argument for change at Essendon.

That much was obvious even before Thursday night's 55-point elimination final thumping from West Coast.

BOMBERS CRASH OUT Full match coverage and stats

But does that simply mean tinkering around the edges, bringing the run-and-gun style up to date with the AFL's elite sides, with fresh ideas from the likes of incoming Richmond assistant Blake Caracella?

Or could it lead to the 'nuclear' option of sacking the coach?

 

The noise surrounding John Worsfold's tenure has been deafening in recent weeks, despite the Bombers qualifying for a second September campaign in three years.

Reports suggested an adverse result against West Coast – the club where he is a living legend – could spell the end for 'Woosha'.

As the dust settles from a tough trip west, it remains to be seen how much appetite for change there is at Tullamarine now Essendon's long drought without a finals victory will continue into 2020.

Asked post-match about his future, Worsfold conceded it was out of his hands.

"Is the question am I confident? Does it really matter how confident I am, because I'm not the decision-maker and signing myself up?" he said.

"I'm really confident with what I've built with this group and where we're currently placed and their ability to go forward.

"I see a lot of similarities with groups I've coached with the same sort of age and experience who have gone on to become very, very good teams.

"I'm really pleased with what we've done to date. 

"I've got a contract, that's as much assurance as … what else could you ask for?

"Every conversation I have with (CEO) Xavier (Campbell) is about next year, about where we're going, pushing forward and the excitement that the group's got."

After four seasons – including the 2016 write-off after doping suspensions crippled the club – for two elimination final appearances, Worsfold is within his rights to be bullish about taking Essendon forward.

However, the Bombers have work to do before challenging for a flag.

They were outclassed by the reigning premiers, rushed in possession in the September cauldron, and only ever really looked dangerous when the ball was in dashing defender Adam Saad's hands.

Former great Matthew Lloyd has been among the vocal critics of Worsfold's gameplan, and 'slingshot' footy from half-back simply doesn’t appear a sustainable brand in September.

The Bombers were belted in contested ball (-22) by a team with its own battles in that area, and conceded a whopping 26 more inside 50s.

It was worryingly similar to their round 14 loss at Optus Stadium to the inaccurate Eagles (64-40 inside 50s), whose 35-point triumph could have been twice as big.

When their brand of play works, like it did during a run of seven wins from eight games from round 10 onwards, the Bombers are one of the League's most exhilarating teams to watch.

But it leaves the Dons susceptible, and playing a style that doesn't match the forward-half territory style of the competition's top teams.

"Sometimes it comes off and sometimes it doesn't," ruckman Tom Bellchambers told AFL.com.au

"Twice against West Coast this year it hasn't come off for us, so we have to look at that definitely.

FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED Bombers' shining light

"But we've played some really good football. When I talk about that consistency, we might have to make some changes and make sure we are getting that supply into the forwards.

"Obviously we didn’t do it tonight and put the backs under pressure.

"I wouldn't want to be playing in defence when the ball is coming in that easily and that many times.

"We might have to make a few tweaks."

Bombers walk off Optus Stadium after their season was ended. 

It might not feel like it for Bombers fans waking up on Friday morning after a sixth-straight finals defeat, but there are reasons to be positive.

Despite a long injury list – featuring reigning Crichton medallist Devon Smith and spearhead Joe Daniher for most of the season – the Bombers were still good enough to win 12 games, although only two were against top-eight rivals.

Former No.1 draft pick Andy McGrath (30 disposals, one goal) shone in just his second career final, and promising youngster Darcy Parish will learn from some costly turnovers.

Most of their stars are in, or entering, their prime, including Michael Hurley (29), skipper Dyson Heppell (27), Dylan Shiel (26), Smith (26), Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (26), Saad (25), Jake Stringer (25), Zach Merrett (23) and Orazio Fantasia (23). 

Keeping hold of Daniher (25) amid interest from Sydney is a must, as is getting him on the park consistently.

Wantaway Suns forward Jack Martin is on the radar, but Essendon's major issues going forward look to be finding support for Bellchambers and injecting more class ball users through midfield.

Winning a final might have been a pass mark for the Bombers in 2019, and in black and white terms, they failed.

But Worsfold has picked up a club up off its knees and appears to be positioning Essendon for a sustained tilt at success, if he gets that chance.

OFF THE PACE Dons failed to cope with finals pressure

"Woosh has been unbelievable. He's guided this club through a really difficult period," Bellchambers said.

"He's got the full support of the players. He's been the rock.

"I definitely think he's the right man for the job. 

"It's been a trying time for the last four or five years at the footy club and he's guided us through that.

"I hope he's there next year, definitely."

Worsfold consoles Bellchambers after Thursday night's loss