Essendon coach John Worsfold is under no illusions about the difficult task on which he is about to embark as the Bombers look to compete without 12 top-line players.
Speaking to the media on Thursday, Worsfold said he knew what he was getting into when he signed on as coach and is looking forward to the challenge of playing the 2016 season after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld WADA’s appeal, banning 12 current Bombers players for the year.
“There was never any guarantee that the CAS decision was going to go either way. I’ve come here to Essendon to deal with their current situation and we knew that was going to be determined a lot by the outcome of that,” he said.
“[We’re] absolutely clear on the outcome now and absolutely clear on what we’re doing to go forward.”
“This is a challenge in a different light but not one that I’m nervous or worried about, one that I’m really excited about.”
Worsfold, who won a premiership with West Coast in 2006, said the team is currently aiming to avoid finishing last.
But he was adamant even the losing season that is almost certainly imminent could have long-term benefits.
“Success is measured around winning, but I’m a big believer you can have successes in terms of building to become a great team on the field over the course of seasons, not just one season,” he said.
“We can have some great wins this year in terms of preparing for how good we want to be in the future.”
Despite his optimism about the year ahead, Worsfold appeared uncertain as to how exactly the team will find replacements for the suspended players.
“We’ve started the … discussions around what we need and what’s available, who’s out there. That’s underway,” he said.
“We’ve got some players that we know pretty well in our VFL system that we’ve got ready access to potentially. So all that’s under way and we are hopeful to move with that as quickly as we can.
“Anyone we bring into this footy club has to have … the same attitude we are looking for from our current squad; wanting to improve, wanting to really add value to us and be competitive, to train hard.
“If their attitude is not like that, we won’t be having them at the footy club. If they are unfit now and it was too big a task to get them to AFL level fitness, that’s going to make it very tough.”
When asked about promoting players from the rookie list, Worsfold said, as far as he knew, the rookie list would be left depleted if a player was promoted to the top squad.
At the other end of the experience spectrum, the search is on for a new skipper at Windy Hill after the loss of captain Jobe Watson and vice-captain Dyson Heppell to doping bans.
The options are relatively thin on the ground, with most players who have spent more than a few years at the club on the banned list, but Worsfold admitted former St Kilda utility Brendon Goddard “appears to be an obvious choice”.
“The players have said they see him as one of the top leaders within the group,” he said.
“I can see why people would say it is an obvious choice.”