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|
Best Bombers bets for the 2018 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:
- The past few seasons should give hope to every footy fan in the country. If the Western Bulldogs and Richmond can break their droughts, why can’t any other club do it this year?
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 in the off-season. And although new boys Jake Stringer and Devon Smith haven’t seen all that many winters, they know what it’s like at the pointy end of finals.
On paper, it is at least a year too soon for Essendon. They were found out in the first week of the 2017 finals and will have to beat some damn good teams to get anywhere near the flag this time around. Consider them as a smokey, but don’t stake your life’s savings on it.
- The Bombers made the top eight last term with a patchwork squad of young guns and ageing heroes. If they can do that only a year after the drugs ban, what might Worsfold and his charges achieve with a full season under their belts?
Most online bookmakers have Essendon among the top seven or eight prospects for finals, and that is hard to argue. They have a difficult start to the year, however, so it might be worth waiting a few weeks and seeing if their price drifts.
- The Dons should reach the finals, so that is one big tick for their chances of producing a Brownlow Medal winner. The next question is whether they boast a standout player who is likely to hog the umpires’ votes on a weekly basis.
Zach Merrett is the obvious choice. With 34 votes in the past two season, the gun on-baller is far and away the most reliable accumulator in the Essendon ranks. He will be a genuine contender for the Charlie if he can add a few more goals to his game this year.
Just behind Merrett are the two most conspicuous players at Windy Hill. Dyson Heppell is as silky and eye-catching as any midfielder in the competition, while Joe Daniher’s ceiling gets higher and higher with every passing season. Only a little improvement on last season would give both of those guys a sneaky chance.
- 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. Nevertheless, there are a few cheeky candidates at Bomberland.
Aaron Francis seemed destined for pastures new at the end of 2017, but early reports suggest he has entered the pre-season with a renewed vigour and sense of purpose. Could the South Australian tall be the man who transforms a decent Essendon defence into a great one?
Another to consider is Josh Begley. The small forward showed glimpses of real quality in his handful of appearances in 2017, including a rock-solid technique in front of goal and an impressive passing range by foot. All he needs is a chance to shine, which might be harder to come by with Smith and Stringer for competition in the forward line.
Joe Daniher can’t kick for goal, yet he finished the 2017 season with 65 majors to his name. The goofy number six has improved year on year since making his AFL debut in 2013, and this will be his biggest challenge yet. There is a very good reason the bookies have only Josh Kennedy and Lance Franklin ahead of JD in the Coleman Medal betting.
Daniher is not the only big threat the Dons possess. Orazio Fantasia kicked multiple bags of four or more last term, while Jake Stringer joins the club after topping the Bulldogs’ goalkicking charts for three consecutive, tumultuous seasons. Who knows what Cale Hooker might do if he spends most of the season forward again?
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|
2018 Essendon squad
|1. Andy McGrath||2/6/1998||21||1||Defence||Sandringham Dragons|
|2. Tom Bellchambers||9/7/1989||93||62||Ruck||Tasmanian Devils|
|3. Darcy Parish||25/7/1997||40||13||Midfield||Geelong Falcons|
|4. Kyle Langford||1/12/1996||31||19||Mid/fwd||Northern Knights|
|5. Devon Smith||20/5/1993||109||100||Fwd/mid||GWS Giants|
|6. Joe Daniher||4/3/1994||93||173||Forward||Calder Cannons|
|7. Zach Merrett||3/10/1995||81||31||Midfield||Sandringham Dragons|
|8. Martin Gleeson||25/8/1994||69||5||Defence||North Ballarat Rebels|
|9. Brendon Goddard||20/5/1985||312||157||Midfield||St Kilda|
|10. Aaron Francis||10/8/1997||5||2||Fwd/def||West Adelaide|
|11. David Zaharakis||21/2/1990||170||112||Midfield||Northern Knights|
|12. Mark Baguley||21/5/1987||103||3||Defence||Frankston|
|13. Orazio Fantasia||14/11/1995||47||70||Forward||Norwood|
|14. Jordan Ridley||20/10/1998||–||–||Def/fwd||Oakleigh Chargers|
|15. Josh Green||24/8/1992||98||124||Forward||Brisbane Lions|
|16. Josh Begley||3/7/1998||3||5||Forward||Eastern Ranges|
|17. James Stewart||4/3/1994||34||40||Forward||GWS Giants|
|18. Michael Hurley||1/7/1990||140||108||Def/fwd||Northern Knights|
|19. Kobe Mutch||18/3/1998||–||–||Mid/fwd||Bendigo Pioneers|
|20. Jackson Merrett||27/2/1993||54||23||Forward||Geelong Falcons|
|21. Dyson Heppell||14/5/1992||129||45||Midfield||Gippsland Power|
|22. Matthew Leuenberger||7/6/1988||135||31||Ruck||Brisbane Lions|
|23. David Myers||30/6/1989||100||29||Mid/def||Perth|
|24. Jordan Houlahan||19/2/1999||–||–||Forward||Sturt|
|25. Jake Stringer||25/4/1994||89||160||Mid/def||Western Bulldogs|
|26. Cale Hooker||13/10/1988||153||69||Def/fwd||East Fremantle|
|27. Mason Redman||26/8/1997||3||1||Midfield||Glenelg|
|28. Mitch Brown||28/8/1990||40||29||Def/fwd||Geelong|
|29. Patrick Ambrose||1/11/1991||60||20||Def/fwd||Old Xaverians|
|30. Brandon Zerk-Thatcher||25/8/1998||–||–||Defence||Sturt|
|32. Travis Colyer||24/8/1991||79||52||Midfield||Claremont (WA)|
|33. Jayden Laverde||12/4/1996||23||14||Fwd/mid||Western Jets|
|34. Jake Long||3/2/1996||3||0||Mid/fwd||St Mary’s|
|35. Matt Guelfi||14/8/1997||–||–||Midfield||Claremont (WA)|
|36. Michael Hartley||7/6/1993||37||1||Defence||Coburg|
|37. Dylan Clarke||6/11/1998||–||–||Midfield||Eastern Ranges|
|38. Sam Draper||28/11/1998||–||–||Def/fwd||South Adelaide|
|39. Trent Mynott||4/10/1999||–||–||Midfield||Eastern Ranges|
|40. Luke Lavender||8/7/1996||–||–||–||–|
|41. Ben McNiece||22/3/1992||2||0||Defence||Essendon VFL|
|42. Adam Saad||23/7/1994||48||3||Defence||Gold Coast Suns|
|43. Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti||22/4/1993||44||42||Forward||Tiwi Bombers|
|44. Shaun McKernan||1/11/1990||52||34||Ruck/fwd||Adelaide Crows|
|45. Conor McKenna||28/3/1996||33||10||Defence||Tyrone GAA|
|49. Matt Dea||13/10/1991||58||2||Defence||Richmond|
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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