OUTGOING coach John Worsfold has implored "Essendon people" to back his successor Ben Rutten as he takes the reins of the club officially from this weekend.
Worsfold will on Saturday coach his 105th and final game at the helm of the Bombers, but his last week in charge of the club hasn't been without scrutiny after Essendon continued its plunge down the ladder.
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Following last week's heavy loss to Port Adelaide, Worsfold said: "I understand that Essendon people think that Essendon should be better, but they've also got to understand that the competition challenges clubs now to work to the same rules".
But in a prepared statement that he read to open his final pre-game press conference on Friday, Worsfold clarified the remarks and defended his media presence.
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"For those of you who know me will always know I play and coach with everything I've got. I'm extremely passionate about anything I do, and I certainly care. I'm also an introvert, and I understand that this passion doesn't always come through, especially in press conferences," Worsfold said.
"Sorry, guys. I know I'm much better at playing the game rather than just talking about it.
"So let me be really clear to all Essendon people, which includes all staff, players, members, coteries and our supporters. I joined our club five years ago because I felt for what it was going through and I thought I could help.
"Wins and losses are important but my great love of the game comes from the people. I saw players hurting, I heard from supporters who were hurting, the club was hurting, I wanted to be part of the club bouncing back. To be part of footy being fun again at the Essendon Football Club. I had so much respect for the club that I joined to be part of that fightback.
"I respect the Essendon Football Club family and I can't thank you enough for your loyalty and support for our club through the toughest of times. I heard from you directly about the pain you felt from those tough years. There are better times ahead."
As part of the statement, Worsfold also urged supporters to get behind Rutten, who has been a part of the club's first-ever coaching handover.
"I believe strongly in Ben Rutten, that is why I agreed to a succession plan. I believe Ben has learnt and grown this year, and is now better placed to take the club forward. As you all get to know him you will respect him as much as myself and the players do," he said.
"The Essendon playing group have been through two massive transitions in my short time at the football club. I also believe really strongly in these young men I know so well. I respect there will be those who don't share my confidence. The future will reveal the reality, and I'm looking forward to watching that."
Worsfold said he didn't have a crystal ball to know when Essendon would be ready to challenge for a premiership, but said his message after the Power defeat was in reference to the patience required to reach success.
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"The reference was that it's hard work to win a premiership and it doesn't happen overnight," he said.
"I've watched Damien Hardwick do such a great job at the Richmond Football Club starting back in 2010 but it took him seven or eight years to eventually get that premiership and in that period there was a massive call to change everything, to change the coach, change the board and they stuck at it.
"I'd just like to implore Essendon people to keep backing the club, to back Ben Rutten, to back this playing group to take them forward. It will be tough and there's a lot of hard work to do but I know they're up for it."
Essendon plays Melbourne on Saturday at Metricon Stadium, having dropped to 13th on the ladder.