THERE'S a popular Twitter account dedicated to how many days it's been since Essendon last won a final.

Almost every daily tweet is simply a record of the number of days rising by one from the previous, with the odd light-hearted quip on top. 

The drought goes way back to 2004, or 5642 days. 

John Worsfold's been in charge at the Bombers for only the past four years of that period, and this season will be his fifth and final before handing the job over to successor Ben Rutten. 

He had little to prove as a coach when he accepted the post ahead of the 2016 season, having led the club he played for and won two premierships with – West Coast – to the 2006 flag. 

Even still, Worsfold's Essendon has been a lightning rod for criticism under his watch for its relative lack of success, including two lopsided elimination final defeats. 

The 51-year-old views his time at Tullamarine very differently. 

Worsfold inherited a club reeling from the infamous drugs saga that saw 34 current and former players suspended and Bombers legend James Hird eventually resign as coach. 

His task, in his own words, went beyond winning football games. 

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"I already feel really proud of my time at Essendon," Worsfold told this week. 

"I'm proud of the fact within a really short period of time, from coming through a fairly tumultuous time, we got the club back pretty focused and the playing group back pretty united – and that took a lot of work. 

"You don't just rock up and say, 'That's all done, let's play footy and everything is going to be good again'."  

Sam Draper and John Worsfold share a moment at the recent team photo day. Picture: AFL Photos

Worsfold lists those two finals appearances – despite the losses – among the key achievements during his tenure, given "we could have been cellar-dwellers for a number of years". 

"We lost draft picks, and obviously went through the emotions of the suspensions and reintegrating those players," he said. 

"We've attracted talent to the footy club, which potentially could have taken five or 10 years before anyone considered coming back to Essendon, and we've retained the list we've been really keen to retain. 

"So those key things, I think, have shored the club up for the opportunity to have success going forward." 

Worsfold had already displayed his willingness to step in during an AFL club's greatest time of need at Adelaide in 2015, in the wake of the late Phil Walsh's shock death.

He served as the Crows' interim coaching director for three months before the Bombers' opportunity arose.

The two scenarios are stark but equally challenging, with both requiring a steady hand to help mend broken young men. 


Jobe Watson, rightly or wrongly, became the face of Essendon's supplements scandal and suffered as much as anyone, hence his mental recuperation being one of Worsfold's top priorities. 

"I know everyone would have loved to have said, 'Well, the fairytale is Jobe Watson comes back from suspension and we win the premiership and he's captain of it' – that was highly unlikely to happen," Worsfold said. 

"The No.1 thing was to reground the club and get it set for long-term success. I feel like we've got it in a really good position. 

"One of the things I loved to hear last year was Jobe Watson commentating on footy, and I hear this year he may have a bigger involvement, when potentially he could have walked away and said, 'I want nothing to do with the game'.

"So, to me, that's something I've been a small part of helping." 

John Worsfold at Jobe Watson's retirement announcement. Picture: Getty Images

Worsfold will also play not such a small part in readying Rutten for the challenges beyond season 2020. 

Rutten and new arrival Blake Caracella are already in charge of the Bombers' team defence and offence, respectively, while Rutten is set to assume increasing responsibility in the coaches' box this season.

Worsfold stopped short of saying Rutten would coach Essendon in the Marsh Community Series but hinted he may be front and centre for "various games" in the premiership season.

Rutten's biggest impressions on Worsfold so far include how clear he is on the way he wants his team to play, as well as his even temperament throughout good and bad moments. 

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"It's the first year I've done it but it doesn't feel weird – it feels right," Worsfold said. 

"The more I reflect on it, the more it's a really good thing for me and it's, I think, an awesome thing for Essendon. 

"It's good for Ben to know he's taking on a senior role next year. He's not applying for a job at the end of the year, then all of a sudden he's got one and it's like, 'What the hell am I in store for?'." 

Ben Rutten will take over as the Bombers' senior coach in 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

This is unlikely to be the last we see of Worsfold in a football capacity but the next chapter is undecided. 

His three children are aged between 16 and 23 and live in Western Australia, so that's proven incredibly difficult emotionally for him. 

It's why any football role he potentially explores for next year, if it is to be in Melbourne, is most likely to be a part-time one. 

"That's a challenge and I miss them more than ever … but, in saying that, they're getting older and my eldest daughter may move to Melbourne (for university) and things change and move," Worsfold said. 

"But, as it stands right now, if everything's exactly the same, I'd say it's a 95 per cent chance I'll be back in Perth at the end of this season." 

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Before then, the Bombers have a season to play and for Worsfold to coach. 

He admits his mindset is slightly different – only because of the focus on Rutten's development rather than any lacking hunger – but going out on a high isn't an integral part of his thinking. 

"If we win a premiership this year, that'll be a bonus, but whatever happens this year, I'll enjoy the year," Worsfold said. 

I'll be measuring the year on how well I think I've positioned the club and Ben for long-term success. Others will measure it on how many games we win – and that's fine

- John Worsfold

"In the very small picture of it, if I coach one final at the end of this year and we win, does that mean now I feel like everything's great? Well, that's one small part. 

"I'm keen to win as many games as possible … but, I want to see Essendon win a premiership in the next few years, whether that's this year, next year or the year after."