What the hell is wrong with the Essendon Football Club?

Not to be dramatic, but the Essendon Football Club is becoming a sinking ship. Scratch that, they’ve basically already sunk. As a diehard Bomber, watching headline after headline come through, people both formerly and currently involved with the club speak out and players wanting out is beginning to take a toll.

On Friday, former club trainer and masseur Craig Yorston, who’s been a loyal employee for 30 years before leaving the club at the end of 2019, aired his grievances regarding the inner workings over the club, most particularly in the last decade. It doesn’t paint the club in a positive light.

You can read the full post here.

“Senior management saw fit to weed out ALL of the long term staff over the last 10 years.”

“A business that for a while makes a profit and looks good on paper, but no real club atmosphere.”

“No passion.”

“Staff are scared to speak out for fear of being replaced.”

Craig’s comments single out a key problem with the internal culture of the club. The Essendon Football Club has seemingly forgotten that they are a ‘club’ first, and a business second. Football clubs were founded by their members, and are for the most part, owned by the members.

The focus on turning a profit as opposed to galvanising a whole club together to make a push for a premiership is incredibly believable, judging by the incoming player exodus. The decision to keep Joe Daniher last year instead of trading him to Sydney for what would have inevitably been the 2019 draft’s pick 5 (Dylan Stephens) and this year’s pick 3 says it all. List manager Adrian Dodoro is one of the few long term staff left employed by the club, and he can’t be trusted to make decisions in the best interest of the list after that debacle.

Given that players like Orazio Fantasia had already expressed interest in leaving the club last year, big-name recruit Adam Saad already Carlton bound, and rumours surrounding the likes of Zach Merrett, Devon Smith and Jayden Laverde have to make you wonder if the club were even slightly aware of the discontent within the playing group.

General Manager of Football, Dan Richardson, recently spoke on SEN regarding Daniher’s and Saad’s departures. His messaging seemed to be nothing short of a PR move, mostly sidestepping any questions regarding a cultural problem within the club.

“I think if there’s a cultural problem at the club it’s around Ben really starting to set the scene around what we want the culture to look like moving forward,” Dan said on SEN.

He also threw out a little side swipe on Saad, which particularly rubs me the wrong way.

“That’s really about wanting as many people as we can to be team-first and commit to the roles for the team that Ben needs them to as our new senior coach,” was the quote in regard to his departure.

This strikes me as trying to rub Saad’s reputation in the dirt before he’s even officially parted ways with the club. At least, that’s reading between the lines.

Trying to label players on the way out as ‘not committed’ seems more petty than anything else. While the argument can be made against a player like Saad, who only made his way to the club at the end of 2017 and is leaving after three years of service, it paints the club’s football department in a shocking light. If he doesn’t want to be there, then that’s that. We don’t know the extenuating circumstances, and if the picture being painted regarding the inner workings of Essendon is factual, I don’t blame him for wanting out.

Andy McGrath’s signing of a two-year contract extension, which while initially positive, makes me wonder why he isn’t being signed on long-term. Jordan Ridley evidently has a four-year deal on the table, and the club was willing to entice Saad to stay with a five-year deal.

So why isn’t Andy, one of the rising stars of the competition and potential future captain of the club, also being offered this sort of faith?

If more people like Craig Yorston begin to speak out, the truth may reveal itself yet.


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