Essendon players walk off after their round five win over Melbourne at Adelaide Oval on April 15, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

ESSENDON has won four from five and will depart Gather Round inside the top four, but new coach Brad Scott believes the Bombers are still a work in progress and can't start daring to dream about September anytime soon. 

The Bombers produced one of the upsets of the weekend by defeating premiership favourites Melbourne on Saturday, leading at every change before eventually winning by 27 points at Adelaide Oval

Scott replaced Ben Rutten in September and returned to the coaches' box in round one for the first time since departing North Melbourne at the end of 2019, but after a fast start the former AFL GM isn't getting carried away.

BOMBERS v DEMONS Full match coverage and stats

"I think what the competition is telling everyone is if you're at your best you are really capable on the day. If the opposition is a little bit off, you're a chance," Scott said post-match.

"I think there is so much to play out. Melbourne are still clearly a contender. If we provide that level of effort and be consistent, we can be competitive with good sides. We are still nowhere near where we want to be and it's going to take us some time.

"I'm really proud. That is the exact word I used with the players. You don't always get reward for effort, but today we did. That was really pleasing. We've been working on all facets of our game. It has been steadily improving, but the non-negotiable is just the effort and intent and it was there in spades today."


Scott praised the combination of budding ruckman Sam Draper (three goals and 18 hitouts) and journeyman Andrew Phillips (two goals and 21 hitouts) against dual All-Australian Brodie Grundy, who had been the No.1 ranked player in the AFL across the previous fortnight.

"The output on the scoreboard is really pleasing. We've got a lot of respect for Grundy for obvious reasons. Draper is emerging, showing some really good signs and getting better and better on a weekly basis," Scott said.

"Phillips has turned the clock back a little bit in the last two weeks. He has been really important. He is such a coachable player. I've got to be careful because if I tell him to do something he does it to the letter. He has been terrific for us across the last two weeks."


After weeks of scrutiny surrounding Dyson Heppell's future in Essendon’s best 22, the former skipper stood tall in difficult conditions against the Demons, after being subbed in or out of two of the past three games.

"He was really important, really important for us today. I was just so happy for him because he has been under some intense scrutiny and it just speaks to the quality of the competitor that he is that he could play as well as he did today," Scott said.

"If he was stung (by the criticism) you wouldn't know, he just absorbs it and moves on. I've talked about the intangible nature of how important he is to our group. The thing about being a senior player is you still need to perform. He and I have spoken a lot about that. He is such a competitor that he is going to give everything that he's got. I was really pleased for him."

Dyson Heppell tackles Kade Chandler during the round five match between Essendon and Melbourne at Adelaide Oval on April 15, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Demons coach Simon Goodwin described the performance as un-Melbourne like after conceding seven unanswered goals in the middle two quarters and falling as much as 42 points behind in the final term.

"The best way I can sum it up is it wasn't us; it just didn't look like us as a team and our ability to work and our ability to win contest. We know we play our best footy in a contest pressure-type of game, but that wasn't us today," Goodwin said.

"You've got to give Essendon credit. It is a tough, ruthless competition that we live in. Sides are on the up and Essendon is one of those sides. They were cleaner, they were harder, they won more critical contests."


Goodwin said the club will look at its program and analyse its decision to return to Melbourne from Perth on Sunday night ahead of the trip to South Australia. 

"We'll have a look at our program. Six days travelling back, certainly in the back of your mind. Did we get our week right? We won't use that as an excuse. We'll certainly look at our week and see if we can structure it better (in future)," he said.


All-Australian defenders Jake Lever (ankle) and Michael Hibberd (Achilles) are both a chance to return against Richmond on Anzac Day eve, along with key forward Ben Brown (back soreness) who was a late withdrawal on Saturday after travelling to Adelaide. 

Goodwin said skipper Max Gawn is ahead of schedule and could return against Damien Hardwick's side in round six, following a strong recovery block. 

"From a public perspective, probably (ahead of schedule). But from an internal perspective he's been progressing really well," he said.

"He’s done a lot of match load in the last week and a half. He is really close in terms of where he is at right now. Internally we've been really happy with his progression. He's a very proud player and takes his rehab really professionally, so he'll be good to go."