Essendon Bombers turn to old school ways as Ben Rutten demands harder edge

Essendon coach Ben Rutten is demanding a response from his players after the loss to Sydney.Credit:Getty

The change of on-field focus comes as the club deals with a media report that a group of members had written to chairman Paul Brasher demanding to know whether alleged behavioural issues involving chief executive Xavier Campbell had been properly investigated.

The Age has asked Brasher and Campbell to respond to the report.

Campbell was recently handed a two-year contract extension, despite the club not having won a final since 2004.

After playing in a final last year against eventual runners-up Western Bulldogs, Essendon have just two wins from nine matches this year to be sitting 16th on the ladder.

Blake Caracella is one of the key men in implementing Essendon’s game plan.

Blake Caracella is one of the key men in implementing Essendon’s game plan. Credit:Getty

It was hoped that a come-from-behind win against arch rivals Hawthorn a fortnight ago may have been the turning point for the season.

But an insipid display against Sydney – after which Rutten admitted the scoreboard flattered his team – has club officials scratching their heads once again.

The Bombers engaged in a physical training session at the club headquarters in Tullamarine on Thursday. The tackle bags were out and players put through full-contact match simulation.

It was a sign of how desperate the Bombers were to spark the physicality missing in the first nine rounds.

Before the session, Rutten blamed a lack of ruthlessness for the Bombers’ poor performances.

“The way we played had nothing to do with game plan,” Rutten said at training as the Bombers were put through an old-school, mouthguards-in session.

“We can’t access anything that we’re trying to do if we’re not prepared to win our share in the contest, pressure the opposition when they’ve got it. We didn’t see that.”

Club great Michael Long, who is one of the driving forces behind the Dreamtime game against Richmond, is hoping for a stern response against the Tigers.

“It would be nice, they’ve given us a touch-up for a while now,” Long said.

″⁣They’ll be hurting from last weekend, so you’d want to bounce back personally as a player and on a special weekend … you’d like to see that.

“We need good leaders and we’ve been struggling with that given our injuries. We can’t make that an excuse.”

Rutten was damning in his assessment of his players, saying they had not been “unconditionally ruthless”.

He said skipper Dyson Heppell had been aware of Swans captain Luke Parker’s sledge on Dylan Shiel, in an apparent contradiction to the veteran’s comments on Fox Footy’s On the Couch program on Monday.

In defending Shiel, Rutten said Parker’s taunt was more an attack on the club than the high-priced midfielder.

“We haven’t played with the hard edge that we need to for consistently enough throughout the season and Sydney was a game that we were way off the level,” Rutten said. ″⁣It’s not about Dylan Shiel, it’s about all of us as a football club.

“I don’t think it was reflective of that moment. It was reflective of us as a club during that game.”

Rutten called on his men to look after each on the field in one of his most vocal and candid media conferences.

“I think what we’re seeing at the moment is we’re not unconditionally ruthless, and have that hard edge that we need,” Rutten said. ″⁣That’s what we’re seeing in our performance.


“Hardness is absolutely going as hard as you want and can at the ball and being really strong when you need to, about being really clear on your opponents and defending as hard as you can.

“It’s about standing up for your mates when you need to. It’s not a type of person that needs to do that, we need everyone to be able to do that.”

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