ESSENDON has lost an assistant on the eve of the season after James Kelly departed the club's coaching panel.

The club says the former Geelong star and top-up Bomber has stepped away from coaching to care for his two young sons.

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Kelly joined the Bombers as a replacement player in 2016 after its wave of anti-doping suspensions and spent two years on the club's list after a glittering career with the Cats.

He went on to be a part of the club's coaching panel under John Worsfold but will not be there as Ben Rutten takes on the reins in an official capacity after the Bombers' coaching handover.

James Kelly is chaired off after his 300th game. Picture: AFL Photos

The Bombers say they will fill Kelly's role internally by splitting his requirements "among our current coaching group".

"This decision wasn't made lightly, but for me family comes first, and the time is now right to step back from football," Kelly said.

"It will be really difficult to step away from the club and I will miss the people who made my experiences as both a player and a coach at Essendon so enjoyable over the past six years.

"The football program at Essendon is in really good shape under the new leadership with 'Truck' (Ben Rutten) and Josh (Mahoney), and I've seen the genuinely positive change that is happening at the moment. 

"It's been exciting to see and I wish the players and coaches all the very best for the season ahead. I'll be watching the boys closely this year."

The change leaves Essendon with Blake Caracella, Daniel Giansiracusa and Dan Jordan as the Bombers' main assistants to Rutten, with Leigh Tudor and Cam Roberts running the Bombers' development.