01/03/2024

Out of favour Blue Will Setterfield has been traded to Essendon. (Image: AFL; Design: Will Cuckson)

Essendon is on the board for the 2022 trade period, gaining the signature of Carlton’s Will Setterfield as well as pick 68 in exchange for its 2023 fourth-round pick.

After being turned down by Josh Dunkley and Jack Bowes, then having the Demons turn away their play at James Harmes, fans would be forgiven for thinking the club would go without any new signings this season.

With the exit of Ben Rutten and the tumultuous period surrounding former CEO Andrew Thorburn, 2022 has been a year to forget for Essendon.

Setterfield looks set to finally get his time as an inside midfielder, filling the Bombers’ need for a big-bodied mid. At 192cm tall, his frame puts him in the same category as Patrick Cripps, Nat Fyfe and David Mundy.

He’s shown talent when given a chance, averaging 25 disposals, 10.5 contested possessions and 6.5 inside 50s over Carlton’s last two games of the season when finals were on the line. He followed this with 40 disposals and two goals in Carlton’s first VFL final.

Setterfield looked out of favour at the Blues this season, only managing 12 games under Michael Voss. The midfielder will be hoping to rid himself of the injuries that plagued him at GWS and Carlton in order to fulfil his potential at the hangar.

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Filling the Bombers’ need for a tall midfielder

Essendon has lacked size at its centre bounce ever since Dyson Heppell’s return to half-back. The midfield was consistently bullied around the ball in 2022 – ranking second last to the Eagles for contested possessions over the home and away season.

Bombers list manager Adrian Dodoro says the club rates the former Blue very highly, and doesn’t intend to mess around with his positioning.

“We’ve rated Will highly ever since the 2016 draft, so to have him on board is fantastic,” he said.

“Our objective this trade period was to get a big-bodied inside midfielder, and at 192cm, Will is exactly that.

“Will has the potential to be an excellent footballer and we look forward to seeing his growth once at the club.”

Wasted on the wing at Carlton

Excluding his final two outings for the Blues, Setterfield was involved in Carlton’s wing rotation that seemed to be drawn out of a hat each week. Sharing the role with Lochie O’Brien, Jack Newnes and Matthew Cottrell was painful to watch for all involved.

None of the trio averaged more than 18 disposals or 3.5 inside 50s per game, with O’Brien the only one to break 240 metres gained. The wing was an empty void in Carlton’s contested machine, determined on winning everything at the contest and moving the ball forward.

Setterfield will be expected to take what he learnt in Voss’ side ranked second in the league in contested possessions and deliver it for Brad Scott and the Bombers.

The Bombers’ new-look midfield

The inclusion of Setterfield could push youngsters Nik Cox and Archie Perkins out of the mix, with Jye Caldwell also a chance to see less time at the centre-bounce after his move from GWS. Expect to see Setterfield, Darcy Parish and Zach Merrett at the first centre bounce of 2023.

It could also impact the midfield time 2021 first round draft pick Ben Hobbs receives, after spending a lot of time forward in his debut season.

Dylan Shiel and Andy McGrath will have to settle for bit-part roles under Scott’s new setup. The pair were the Bombers’ most efficient inside midfielders in 2022, and should focus on maintaining that impact through bursts next season.

With the chance to draft either George Wardlaw or Elijah Tsatas at this year’s draft. Essendon look entirely capable of turning this season’s weakness into a key strength.

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