16/04/2024

With a number of established stars arriving over the trade period, will the Bombers rise up the ladder in 2024? (Image: Essendon FC)

With a plethora of new recruits and future stars joining the club during the 2023 trade period and draft, will 2024 be the year that the Bombers climb back into the Top-8?

2023 Overview

The Bombers started the 2023 season in excellent shape, taking out victories in four of their first five outings for the year under new coach Brad Scott. Follow that up with a very solid ANZAC Day performance, despite losing in the end, and many expected that it could be the year we see them climb back into finals.

As the year went on however, particularly after Round 15, we saw a much more inconsistent side to the Bombers’ game where they failed to string wins together or look convincing in any sense. Their back-to-back victories over West Coast and North Melbourne were evidence of this, as they were a side barely scraping it together against the bottom-two teams in the competition.

Overall it was a season to forget for the Bombers, although you could certainly take positives out of the good footy that they played early in the year and the young stars that made a name for themselves throughout the season, even in the side’s poorer performances.

Off-Season Changes

In: Todd Goldstein (NM), Ben McKay (NM), Jade Gresham (STK), Xavier Duursma (PA), Nate Caddy (Pick 10), Luamon Lual (Pick 39), Archie Roberts (Pick 54), Vigo Visentini (Rookie Draft)

Out: Massimo D’Ambrosio (HAW), Brandon Zerk-Thatcher (PA), Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (retired), Andrew Phillips (retired), Will Snelling (delisted), James Stewart (delisted), Alastair Lord (delisted), Cian McBride (delisted),  Rhett Montgomerie (delisted), Anthony Munkara (delisted), Patrick Voss (delisted)

Acquiring some solid names from other AFL clubs, and a terrific group of draftees, Essendon will look to further establish their perfect mix in 2024.

Arriving from the Kangaroos, Todd Goldstein and Ben McKay will add some much needed experience to the Bombers’ tall stocks. Jade Gresham’s speed and versatility will be more than welcome in their forward half, while Xavier Duursma will be a brilliant pickup if he can find the form displayed earlier in his career.

Nate Caddy looks to be a really impressive prospect who can come into the side and make an instant impact, while Luamon Lual and Archie Roberts both could have gone higher in the draft and were very solid value picks for where the Bombers took them.

Picked up by the Hawks and Power respectively over the summer, Massimo D’Ambrosio and Brandon Zerk-Thatcher were two defensive names that had plenty of promise but will now look to re-establish themselves at their new homes in 2024. Meanwhile, following their AFL retirements, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti and Andrew Phillips will be missed for the consistent roles they were able to play in the peak of their tenures at the club.

Fixture

*HOME GAMES IN BOLD*

Opening Round – BYE

Round 1 – vs. Hawthorn, MCG, Saturday March 16, 1:45pm

Round 2 – vs. Sydney, SCG, Saturday March 23, 7:30pm

Round 3 – vs. St Kilda, Marvel Stadium, Saturday March 30, 4:20pm

Round 4 – vs. Port Adelaide, Adelaide Oval, Friday April 5, 8:10pm

Round 5 – vs. Western Bulldogs, Marvel Stadium, Friday April 12, 7:40pm

Round 6 – vs. Adelaide, Adelaide Oval, Friday April 19, 7:40pm

Round 7 – vs. Collingwood, MCG, Thursday April 25, 3:20pm

Round 8 – vs. West Coast, Optus Stadium, Saturday May 4, 8:10pm

Round 9 – vs. GWS, Marvel Stadium, Saturday May 11, 4:35pm

Round 10 – vs. North Melbourne, Marvel Stadium, Sunday May 19, 1:10pm

Round 11 – vs. Richmond, MCG, Saturday May 25, 7:40pm

Round 12 – vs. Gold Coast, Heritage Bank Stadium, Sunday June 2, 4:00pm

Round 13 – vs. Carlton, MCG, Sunday June 9, 7:20pm

Round 14 – BYE

Round 15 – vs. West Coast, Marvel Stadium, Sunday June 23, 1:00pm

Round 16 – vs. Geelong, MCG, TBC

Round 17 – vs. Collingwood, MCG, TBC

Round 18 – vs. Melbourne, MCG, TBC

Round 19 – vs. Adelaide, Marvel Stadium, TBC

Round 20 – vs. St Kilda, Marvel Stadium, TBC

Round 21 – vs. Fremantle, MCG, TBC

Round 22 – vs. Gold Coast, Marvel Stadium, TBC

Round 23 – vs. Sydney, Marvel Stadium, TBC

Round 24 – vs. Brisbane, The Gabba, TBC

It’s a bit of an up and down start for the Bombers in the early stages of 2024. Games against Sydney, Port Adelaide, and Adelaide away from home will be tough matchups in their first six. However, they should definitely see games in Melbourne against the Hawks, Saints, and Bulldogs as gettable ones leading into the yearly ANZAC Day blockbuster where they are always competitive against Collingwood.

The middle section of Essendon’s year will again be headlined by two massive primetime matches at the MCG. ‘Dreamtime at the G’ in 2023 saw the Bombers sneak past the Tigers in intense fashion, and they’ll aim to back it up once again in 2024, while the Kings Birthday Eve clash with arch-rival Carlton will surely be one to watch. The Bombers looked comfortable against the eventual Preliminary Finalists on that night last season, and will want to repeat in that contest as well.

With games against Sydney and Brisbane in the last two rounds, it could be a difficult finish for Essendon in 2024. Games at home against the Dockers and Suns will be important ones leading into those final two weeks if the Bombers would like to make a push into finals contention. Another big handful of losses to finish the season would simply be disastrous.

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Looking at 2024

As previously mentioned, consistency was perhaps the biggest struggle for the Bombers in 2023. They really struggled, particularly in the back half of the year, to carry any good football into the following week on a regular basis. After a solid start to the year, this ultimately hurt their final ladder position.

The peaks last year were brilliant, but the latter half of the year was highlighted by three dreadful losses at the hands of the Giants, Pies, and Cats, as well as two very narrow wins over largely inferior opponents in the Eagles and Kangaroos.

Comfortable wins against lower teams will be crucial this year for the Bombers. Scraping by should be a thing of the past. While competitive outings against the teams above them will be just as important.

Rising stars Ben Hobbs and Sam Durham further cemented their places in the side last season, while players like Nic Martin, and more experienced names like Kyle Langford and Mason Redman, all took their games to a new level. They will continue to be crucial as the side develops even further this year.

The Bombers will look a little different defensively in 2024, particularly when it comes to their key position players. Ben McKay feels like an improvement on Brandon Zerk-Thatcher at this point in time, while Zach Reid looks poised for a breakout year after what has been a very solid pre-season. The injury to Jordan Ridley will hurt early on, but as he comes back in they will have plenty of quality to put to good use down back.

The midfield mix also bats quite deep once again for the side. Zach Merrett and Darcy Parish are both superstars, and will contribute nicely as always, while the aforementioned Hobbs, Will Setterfield, Jye Caldwell, and Archie Perkins, among others, all have the ability to run through that area of the ground and make an impact.

There’s plenty to be excited about over the next few years for Bombers fans, and it starts with getting the right pieces in place as this season goes on.

Prediction: 11th

In the end, it’ll be another year in the same ladder position for the Bombers. However, the story in 2024 will be very different to what it was in 2023.

I feel that by the end of 2024, what we will ultimately see from the Bombers is a much more consistent brand of football and some clear progression shown in spite of the fact that we may not see any movement up the ladder.

In the short term, that could definitely be a source of frustration for fans, but if the right steps are made this season, what occurs over the next couple of years will be a terrific watch. We’re gearing up for what could be a truly exciting time to be a Bombers fan, and that is the early signs of a much more convincing rise up the ladder in 2025.

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