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 1987. 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.
Now the mist is clearing and a bright future lies ahead for the Dons. They have a respected coach in John Worsfold, a young captain in Dyson Heppell, and a list bursting with top-end talent in all positions.
How high can these Bombers fly? Let’s see what the bookies can tell us about Essendon’s prospects in the upcoming AFL Premiership season.
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|
|2018 ladder finish:||11th|
Best bookies for Bombers betting
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Updated Essendon futures bettingLatest Essendon AFL futures odds come courtesy of Sportsbet, where new customers can score up to $501 in bonus bets upon joining. Sign up now for free.
|2019 Premiership||Make Finals||Make Top 4||Brownlow Odds||Rising Star Odds||Coleman Odds|
|Jan||$12||$1.77||$3||D Heppell $51||–||J Daniher $12|
|Feb||$12||$1.70||$2.75||D Shiel $41||J Begley $34||J Daniher $12|
|Mar||$12||$1.60||$3||D Shiel $41||J Begley $34||J Daniher $12|
|Apr||$18||$1.75||$4.50||D Shiel $34||J Ridley $51||A M-Tipungwuti $26|
Best Bombers bets for the 2019 AFL season
There are dozens of AFL futures markets for Essendon, but where are they likely to return some real value?
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- If you are going to back a bolter for the flag this season, the Dons are as good an option as any. They are young, they are talented and they have added some real quality once again in the off-season. If key men such as Joe Daniher, Dylan Shiel and Zach Merrett stay fit for most of the year, there is no reason Essendon cannot make a serious play for the flag.
- A rotten spell early in the season saw the Bombers slip out of the eight to 11th in 2018, but everybody knows they are a much better team than that. Finals are a must, or else John Worsfold will be seeking employment elsewhere come September. If a few things fall their way, top four and a home final is a very real possibility for Essendon.
- The vast improvement of Essendon’s midfield in recent years makes it tough to call a standout contender for the Brownlow Medal. The bookies like Dylan Shiel and Dyson Heppell always catches the eye, but Zach Merrett has polled very well in the past and should find it easier to avoid a tag this season with more big names around him.
- It was only in 2017 that Andy McGrath became Essendon’s second-ever AFL Rising Star, so it might be a little while before the club produces another. Josh Begley and Jordan Ridley are the top candidates, but both are far from guaranteed starters this year.
- Joe Daniher can’t kick for goal, yet he finished the 2017 season with 65 majors to his name. Injury ruined the goofy forward’s 2018 campaign, so the preseason is the key to determining where he stands in the Coleman Medal betting.
Essendon 2019 AFL fixture
|1||GWS Giants||Sydney Showground||Sunday, March 24||3:20pm AEDT|
|2||St Kilda Saints||Marvel Stadium||Saturday, March 30||4:35pm AEDT|
|3||Melbourne Demons||MCG||Friday, April 5||7:50pm AEDT|
|4||Brisbane Lions||MCG||Saturday, April 13||2:10pm AEST|
|5||North Melbourne Kangaroos||Marvel Stadium||Friday, April 19||4:20pm AEST|
|6||Collingwood Magpies||MCG||Thursday, April 25||3:20pm AEST|
|7||Geelong Cats||MCG||Sunday, May 5||3:20pm AEST|
|8||Sydney Swans||SCG||Friday, May 10||7:50pm AEST|
|9||Fremantle Dockers||Marvel Stadium||Saturday, May 18||7:25pm AEST|
|10||Richmond Tigers||MCG||Saturday, May 25||7:25pm AEST|
|11||Carlton Blues||MCG||Sunday, June 2||3:20pm AEST|
|13||Hawthorn Hawks||MCG||Friday, June 14||7:50pm AEST|
|14||West Coast Eagles||Optus Stadium||Thursday, June 20||6:10pm AWST|
|15||GWS Giants||Marvel Stadium||Thursday, June 27||7:20pm AEST|
|16||Sydney Swans||MCG||Saturday, July 6||1:45pm AEST|
|17||North Melbourne Kangaroos||Marvel Stadium||Saturday, July 13||4:35pm AEST|
|18||Adelaide Crows||Adelaide Oval||Friday, July 19||7:20pm ACST|
|19||Gold Coast Suns||Metricon Stadium||Sunday, July 28||4:40pm AEST|
|20||Port Adelaide Power||Marvel Stadium||Saturday, August 3||1:45pm AEST|
|21||Western Bulldogs||Marvel Stadium||Saturday, August 10||7:25pm AEST|
|22||Fremantle Dockers||Optus Stadium||Saturday, August 17||6:10pm AWST|
Essendon players to watch in 2019
Devon Smith has set a high watermark for ex-Giants players at Windy Hill, but Shiel is good enough to pass it. The new no.9 brings speed and class to a midfield which, after many years of mediocrity, is now one of the more exciting units in the competition.
Despite earning mixed reviews in his first season with the Bombers, Stringer led the club goalkicking and recorded career-high averages for disposals, inside 50s, clearances and contested possessions. He looks fitter than ever this year and could be poised for a big one.
There was a point last year when it seemed Francis might never again play AFL football, but he worked his way back and starred in the last few rounds of the season. The red-headed South Australian is a monster in the air and reads the play beautifully, so Brendon Goddard won’t be missed.
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.
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