17/04/2024

Ben Hobbs was influential in his move to the midfield. (Photo: AFL)

Essendon's Ben Hobbs was once again given the opportunity to attend centre bounces in Saturday's win over Sydney, and according to coach Ben Rutten, it's fast-tracking his development.

Essendon coach Ben Rutten was full of praise for youngster Ben Hobbs after the dramatic win over Sydney on Saturday.

The 18-year-old was initially named as the medical sub before Archie Perkins had to pull out of the match late due to a calf complaint.

With the game on the line coming into the final term, Hobbs was added to the centre bounce rotations.

“With Archie pulling out later in the week, Hobbsy, as you’d expect, grabbed the opportunity to jump back into the team,” Rutten told reporters post-game.

“We started to expose him a little bit more through the midfield, some centre bounce work against some seasoned players in there. It’s invaluable, you can’t train that.”

Hobbs has spent most of his time in the senior team playing in the forward line, having kicked six goals in his 11 outings.

But not only was it experience needed for the youngster’s development, it also helped to push the Bombers to victory. While Jake Stringer stole the show with two goals, Hobbs kept chipping away in contest after contest.

Against a tough Swans centre bounce, Hobbs’ last quarter consisted of 10 disposals with six of his possessions contested, three clearances, two tackles and two marks.

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His presence was key to driving Essendon to a six goal last quarter, outshining even the likes of Darcy Parish (five last quarter disposals) and Dylan Shiel (eight last quarter disposals).

And it wasn’t the first time the youngster had been let loose in the centre of the ground to affect a game hanging in the balance.

“We’re certainly really confident and believe in Hobbsy as a player,” Rutten continued.

“That exposure, I think he did it in the Hawthorn game as well and had a similar impact. I think it’s being able to share the load. It’s probably the most pleasing thing across the board.”

It was a similar story against the Hawks, where Hobbs attended four centre bounces for six disposals, four contested possessions, two tackles and a clearance. Yet again, the Bombers came back with eight goals to win.

Essendon’s intensity has come under fire a number of times in 2022, ranked last for tackles and 15th for clearances. But in recent weeks, the Bombers have turned it around.

They won the clearances +8 against the Swans, +6 against the Eagles while also winning the tackle count +2, and broke even with the Saints for clearances while winning tackles +13. There’s no coincidence that this has come while Essendon’s youngsters continue to break into form.

Mid-season draftee Massimo D’Ambrosio earned the Bombers’ third rising star nomination for 2022 after Hobbs earned his just two weeks prior.

Winning two of their last three matches, Rutten would be keen to continue placing confidence in his young players as they begin to lead the way.

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