No club has enjoyed more VFL/AFL success than Essendon. The Bombers have won 16 top-flight premierships, including the very first way back in 1897. Only Carlton, their oldest rivals, have as many pennants in their clubrooms.
Times have been tough at Windy Hill since the turn of the millennium. After a record-breaking premiership year in 2000, a series of poor recruiting decisions (both on and off the field) saw Essendon vanish into the mires of mid-table mediocrity. Just as things were starting to turn around, a drawn-out doping saga brought the club to its knees, and the Dons are yet to fully recover from it.
How high can these Bombers fly in 2021? Let’s see what the bookies can tell us about Essendon’s prospects in the upcoming AFL Premiership season.
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About the Essendon Football Club
|Home ground:||Etihad Stadium|
|Premierships:||16 – 1897, 1901, 1911, 1912, 1923, 1924, 1942, 1949, 1950, 1962, 1965, 1984, 1985, 1993, 2000|
|2020 ladder finish:||13th (6-10-1)|
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Updated Essendon futures betting
Latest Essendon AFL futures odds come courtesy of Sportsbet, where new customers can take advantage of some of the best AFL betting features and markets available. You can view the latest live odds at Sportsbet.com.au.
|2021 Premiership||Make Finals||Brownlow Odds||Rising Star Odds||Coleman Odds|
|Mar||$41||$4.50||Z Merrett $51||N Cox $15||J Stringer $51|
|Apr||$81||$6||Z Merrett $51||N Cox $11||J Stringer $101|
|May||$101||$7||Z Merrett $41||N Cox $9||A M-Tipungwuti $41|
|Jun||$51||$2.88||D Parish $8.50||N Cox $3.25||C Hooker $21|
|Jul||$81||$5||D Parish $7||N Cox $10||C Hooker $34|
|Aug||$81||$3.50||D Parish $13||N Cox $26||–|
Best Bombers bets for the 2021 AFL season
There are dozens of AFL futures markets for Essendon, but where are they likely to return some real value?
Click on the tabs below to get more analysis on these markets:
- After a horrid 2020 campaign, the Bombers look set for a long rebuild. If you saw anything of them last season, you will understand why we say there is no chance the Dons will win the flag in 2021.
- The Dons had a few promising seasons under John Worsfold, but they appear to have run out of steam as Ben Rutten takes over the reins. However, a new coach and an injection of young talent could be just what the doctor ordered. If you think Essendon will improve this year, you can get some real value in backing them to make the finals.
- The vast improvement of Essendon’s midfield in recent years makes it tough to call a standout contender in the Brownlow Medal betting. Zach Merrett has polled well in the past and should lead the way again, while Andy McGrath and Dylan Shiel are worth keeping an eye on as well. Darcy Parish might be the bolter if he gets a decent run in the midfield.
- It was only in 2017 that Andy McGrath became Essendon’s second-ever AFL Rising Star, but the Dons have another leading contender this year in Nik Cox. Tall, athletic and skilful, the no.8 draft pick is sure to attract plenty of attention.
Essendon players to watch in 2021
He stands at 6’7″ in the old money but moves like the most agile of on-ballers, so it is easy to see why Nik Cox was Essendon’s top pick in the 2020 AFL National Draft. The Bombers look to be in the midst of a rebuild, so we should see plenty of Cox in the senior side throughout the year.
Darcy Parish has shown glimpses of his considerable talent during his first five seasons in the AFL, but a lack of midfield opportunities have hindered his progress to some extent. Is this the year we finally see the blond Bomber emerge as the gun rover he was touted to be?
In an otherwise dismal 2020 campaign, Jordan Ridley was a shining light in the Essendon defence. Only 26 games into his career, the young backman took out the Crichton Medal and was named in the AFL’s 22under22 side. Dons fans will be expecting another big year from Ridley.
Essendon records, stats and history
- Most matches: 400 – Dustin Fletcher (1993–2015)
- Most career goals: 926 – Matthew Lloyd (1995–2009)
- Most goals in a season: 120 – John Coleman (1950)
- Most goals in a match: 14 – John Coleman (1954)
- Best and fairest awards: 7 – Bill Hutchison and Dick Reynolds
- Most wins in a season: 21 (2000)
- Most consecutive wins: 20 (2000)
- Highest score in a match: 32.16.208 (vs. Footscray, 1982)
- Highest winning margin: 165 (vs. South Melbourne, 1964)
- Highest home attendance: 93,373 (vs. Collingwood, 2013)
- The Essendon Football Club began life as a juniors team in 1871. Seven years later, the Dons entered the senior ranks of the Victorian Football Association. They enjoyed considerable success over the next decade, winning four consecutive premierships from 1891 to 1894.
Essendon were one of seven VFA clubs that broke away to found the Victorian Football League in 1896. They won the inaugural VFL Premiership a year later and went on to win three more flags prior to the outbreak of World War I.
The next few decades established Essendon as one of Melbourne’s true powerhouse clubs. Boasting superstars such as Dick Reynolds, Bill Hutchison and John Coleman, the red and black claimed three premierships between 1946 and 1950 to become only the second club to win 10 flags.
After intermittent success in the ’50s and ’60s, the drought set in. Although the club was financially strong, an inability to find and keep top-end players saw the Bombers go the entirety of the 1970s without reaching a grand final.
Then Kevin Sheedy came to the rescue. Appointed as coach in 1981, the former Richmond premiership player steered Essendon to the VFL Grand Final two years later – their first since 1968. They lost to Hawthorn on that occasion, but they bounced back with consecutive flag wins over the Hawks in ’84 and ’85.
The AFL was formed in 1990 and Sheedy was determined to make Essendon one of the big wigs of the nascent national competition. The ‘Baby Bombers’ surprised everyone in 1993, besting Carlton in the decider with a young squad that featured future legends such as James Hird, Dustin Fletcher, Mark Mercuri, Joe Misiti and Gavin Wanganeen.
New stars emerged throughout the ’90s. Some canny trading brought in Matthew Lloyd and Scott Lucas, who would form one of the game’s great forward partnerships. A series of near-misses throughout the decade culminated in a record-breaking 2000 campaign, when the Dons won 21 of 22 home and away games before smashing Melbourne in the grand final.
The following years were less fruitful. As stars of the ’93 and ’00 premierships moved on, Sheedy and his staff sought out experienced off-cuts rather than trading for top-shelf talent or trusting in the draft. The result was a rapid decline from which the club is yet to fully recover.
Just as things were starting look up under the stewardship of dual premiership hero James Hird, disaster struck. From 2012 to 2016, the club was embroiled in a doping scandal that resulted in 34 past and present players missing an entire season of football. Hird lost his job, the hierarchy was in tatters and the Dons were forced to play out the 2016 campaign with a patchwork squad of untried kids and second-tier recruits.
There was a silver lining among all those storm clouds. With a dozen first-team players out of commission, Essendon had no choice but to trust in young, raw talents and hope for the best. The result was a return to finals footy in 2017 and a Rising Star nod for top draft pick Andy McGrath. With names like Merrett, Daniher, Fantasia, Hurley and Hooker on the books, the future is bright at Bomberland.