Essendon legend Matthew Lloyd has called on his former club to stay motivated in 2022 and return to the final, believing the prospects for the future are no better than those of St Kilda, Fremantle and Carlton.
The Bombers’ loss to the Bulldogs last Sunday saw their grim run of 6205 days without a final win continue in a season that saw the club surpass all expectations under first-year coach Ben Rutten after being widely tipped to finish among the lower-ranked teams.
But just like Saints great Leigh Montagna did on Fox Footy’s first tear, Lloyd pointed to Essendon’s damning track record of missing finals the year after each of his last six post-season appearances since 2004.
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“They haven’t really backed up and made it to the final two years in a row. This has nothing to do with Ben Rutten as they are not running ahead of things at all,” Lloyd told Channel 9 Footy classified.
‘I don’t think they’re ahead of St Kilda, I don’t think they’re ahead of the Fremantle Dockers, I don’t think they’re ahead of Carlton.
“There are so many sides that I think are tied. You can make it to the final and think you’re better than a team that finished 9th to 11th.
“But they are no different from them in trying to get to the final next year because I still think they have problems with their roster despite how much they improved this year.”
Lloyd was optimistic about the Bombers’ defense and midfield – the latter of which he believes is “as good as any others” – but expressed concern at the front line.
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Retired veteran Cale Hooker — who led the Bombers goalkeepers for most of the season, finishing 33 majors to finish third on their list — was dropped late in the season in favor of Peter Wright and Aaron Francis who were at the forefront.
But Lloyd had little faith in the pair and the seemingly viable keys on the market.
“(Aaron) Francis and (Peter) Wright, they’re not going to take you as far as a forward line. They didn’t make the scoreboard (on the weekend), they barely took points,” said the three-time Coleman medalist.
“For me, Mason Cox is not an answer, Sam Weideman is not enough, Jake Riccardi is not an answer, Jack Gunston is too old in his career.
“Will it just be another year of eighth, ninth, if they can’t pull a key out while Hooker retires and (Michael) Hurley is unlikely to come back?”
Veteran journalist Caroline Wilson asked whether the Bombers should launch an offer for Gold Coast Suns star Ben King, who she says “people think it’s feasible.”
To which Port Adelaide champion Kane Cornes replied: “He would definitely be a target for them. He will be a target for all Victorian clubs.”