ESSENDON coach Ben Rutten says Luke Parker's taunt to Dylan Shiel was representative of the Bombers' lack of a 'hard edge' across the team than an attack on Shiel.
The Sydney co-captain mocked the Essendon midfielder in last week's clash at the SCG by motioning about his contest work in an act that was caught by cameras and replayed across the past week.
Rutten confirmed on Thursday that Shiel, was dropped earlier this season, would face the Tigers in the annual Dreamtime at the 'G clash on Saturday night and backed the former Giant and high-priced recruit.
"Dylan's hurting like a lot of our players are at the moment about the way we're playing. That's the bottom line. We're supporting Dylan where we can, making sure he's really clear on the expectations just like we are with all of our players," he said.
"Dylan's a great person, he adds a lot to our footy club and he adds a lot to us out on the field. We haven't played with the hard edge that we need to consistently enough throughout the season and Sydney was a game where we were way off the level. It's not about Dylan Shiel, it's about all of us as a football club.
"I don't think the vision was reflective of the moment, it was reflective of us as a club during that game. It was reflective of us as a club during the game."
The incident saw no remonstration from the Bombers, leading to calls from champion goalkicker Matthew Lloyd that his former club was being walked over.
Rutten said all players had now seen the vision and that there had been "some really honest reflections" after the defeat, and pointed to Andrew McGrath's support for Jye Caldwell after his courageous effort saw him crunched by opponent Tom McCartin as the best response.
"We need to stand up for each other. That's pretty clear. I thought Andy McGrath, after the Jye Caldwell incident, that's the level that we expect of our players," he said.
"I thought that was fantastic leadership, I thought it was a display of someone who really cares about the footy club and wants to make a difference. That's the quality of person Andy McGrath is and that's what we need to see more of. The players are clear on that."
The Bombers are 16th on the ladder after their 2-7 start to the season, with games against Richmond and Port Adelaide (at Adelaide Oval) to come before their bye. They then face top-four contenders Carlton and St Kilda in a run of contests that will place the club further under the spotlight after their finals performance last season.
"What we're seeing at the moment is we're not unconditionally ruthless and have that hard edge that we need. That's what we're seeing in our performance," he said.
Rutten defended the club's game style, saying its effort against Sydney had "nothing to do with game plan", and demanded his players tackle more after their paltry total of 30 tackles in last week's defeat.
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Caldwell is in doubt with his AC joint injury and didn't complete training on Thursday but the club expects Jordan Ridley to play despite some leg soreness. The gun defender took part in more of the session than Caldwell.
Key forward Harrison Jones is also in the mix for his first AFL game of the year after overcoming his ankle injury but Nik Cox will miss 10 weeks with his foot injury. Despite the troubled start to the season Rutten said he was taking it on.
"For me it's an awesome opportunity to lead the footy club and the leadership that's required is what I'm up for," he said.