Dyson Heppell celebrates with teammates after a win during round four, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

ESSENDON coach Brad Scott has called on the AFL to allow clubs to name a squad of 23, after swinging a late tactical change to bring in Andrew Phillips to face Greater Western Sydney.

The Bombers "proactively" clarified the rules with the league earlier in the week, as the Phillips change saw Dyson Heppell take the sub role without having to be dropped and re-picked from the four emergencies.

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick went through the latter process with former skipper Trent Cotchin on Saturday, and later slammed the rules as "farcical".


"It was just where we thought we could get an advantage. It's a really hard one, I know there's been some commentary throughout the week around naming a sub, having someone named out," Scott said.

"We actually did seek some proactive clarification on that, that we could do what we did. So we declared that to the AFL, that was the way we were going to approach it. But ultimately, in terms of selection, we felt two rucks was the way to go, and (Sam) Draper and Phillips were really important.

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"To be perfectly honest, we had a situation where Phillips didn't play last week. So we didn't have to name our sub out, whereas other teams, if you're going to drop someone or make them the sub, you've got to name them as omitted, and we certainly didn't want to do that with Heppell.

"But we felt Heppell was the right sub for us this week, because we'd gone with talls at both ends of the ground. That just gave us the flexibility that Dyson can play in multiple positions. I thought one, the way he handled it – he's had it all in a month, Dyson, he's been subbed on, he's started as a sub, he's been subbed off, and he's spoken to the players that those are the rules and we have to play to them and we want the result for the team.

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"I think (23) just makes sense. But having worked at the AFL, I know that the lawyers would hate that, because they'd have to re-write the entire rule book, because the rule book is written around 22 players.

"They have to change a lot of things, but at the end of the day, it's doable to change it. I think it's logical, because having to name Trent Cotchin as omitted, when he's not omitted, it just doesn't feel right."

Brad Scott takes a look at the team line-up during round four, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Scott was happy with the way his side toughed out a 13-point win despite being highly inaccurate in the first three quarters, finishing with 11.22 (88).

"You try and focus on what you can control, and our shot selection early wasn't great. You take the fact that most parts of the game looked pretty good for us, it was just the finishing and converting," Scott said.

"What we were most pleased with today was our ability to play a style that even when things aren't quite going our way, it kept us in the game. I think you can fall in the trap of thinking you're not taking your opportunities, and that's the problem.

"We just kept focusing on what we'd been working on, our contest work and our defence, and our defence certainly kept us competitive today, and we were able to eventually start converting and getting a bit of a run on, but it was on the back of some pretty sound defence."


He said Jake Stringer's performance (four goals) was a testament to the club's slow and patient approach with the lively forward as he recovered from a pre-season hamstring injury.

"The thing with Jake is all eyes are on him so I don't think it's fair to these guys to put them out when they're 50 per cent and just open them up to criticism and more importantly, letting the team down because they can't do what we know they can," he said.

"It was just a matter of getting him back to the best possible shape we could.

"I never feel the need to be vindicated but we just felt like it was the right approach. That doesn't guarantee you anything but it just sets him up to give him every chance."


GWS coach Adam Kingsley said there was work to be done after being outworked around the ball.

"I thought we were pretty ordinary today, last week I thought we were a lot better. We didn't hunt the ball like the Bombers, we didn't work like the Bombers. When you're falling short on those basic fundamentals, you find the scoreboard reading the way it does," he said.

"I thought in the first quarter, I thought we had opportunities we didn't take, we gave the ball back far too easily. They were able to get repeat entries off our skill errors, which was really disappointing. Ultimately, they were prepared to roll their sleeves up and get the ball and we weren't, particularly in our D50."


Kingsley noticeably took the Giants to task at three-quarter time with a forceful, on-field address, telling reporters it was the first time he had spoken to the players in that way across his first in-season month in charge.

"It was 'get to work'. We were getting beaten in the contest. The Bombers look harder, they're certainly slicker with the ball, in and around the contest. I thought they held balance far better than what we did, it certainly enabled them to access the corridor far more than we did, and gave them better scoring opportunities, putting our defenders under pressure," he said.

"Ultimately, that was the messaging, 'let's be better in the contest'. The first part of that quarter wasn't great, but then we responded.

"I wouldn't have said it was real hard (address) either, but I'm not going stuff around, I'm going to let them know what's going on in the game, and what's required to change it around. I do that at every break."

Kingsley said No.1 pick Aaron Cadman is closing in on a debut – "whether that's next week or beyond, I'm not sure" – after being named as an emergency, covering for Jesse Hogan and his tight quad. Hogan got through the match unscathed.