15/04/2024

Essendon huddles in the weekend's loss to Collingwood. (Photo: AFL)

A heartbreaking after the siren loss to Collingwood won’t deter Essendon and coach Ben Rutten from making the most of the rest of the run home.

The Bombers fell in the dying stages to their rivals, but will have the opportunity to right the ship this Sunday against North Melbourne.

It’s the first of four ‘winnable’ games, seeing the club pitted against exclusively bottom 10 opposition. Essendon will play North, GWS, Port Adelaide and Richmond to close out its season.

Win these games, and a 10-12 record doesn’t seem as miserable on paper as the early stages of the season would suggest.

It would be just one win less than the Bombers achieved in their first season under Rutten in 2021, where they bowed out in an elimination final to the Western Bulldogs.

They’ve even defeated more quality opposition than last season, having beaten two top eight sides as compared to one in Rutten’s maiden year.

Though it would be nice to even up the ledger, the coach’s key metrics for the last four rounds aren’t just based around the ladder.

“[The run home] is no bigger due to the circumstances,” Rutten told media on Friday.

“[As a] club we’re wanting to get better and keep improving our circumstances each week. The back end of the season is really important for us, not necessarily from a win/loss point of view, but continuing the way we want to play.”

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Essendon will have to win this week without young star Andrew McGrath, who has entered the league’s health and safety protocols.

The 24-year-old has been utilised through the midfield and across half-back this year. With career highs in marks across the past month, he’s been invaluable as a link player out of defence.

Darcy Parish isn’t ready to return yet, but the midfield has been functioning superbly even without him. The half-back line becomes the worry against the Roos.

Mason Redman is still in doubt according to Rutten, and has to be put through his paces at training before deciding whether he will keep his spot in the 22. The defender was substituted out of the match last week, but has been named in the side.

“[Redman] will still be a wait and see,” Rutten said.

“He still needs to train today. He’s been cleared of anything more serious and structurally.”

As of final team announcements, Redman remains named on the half-back flank, while James Stewart earns a recall for just the second time since Round 3.

Redman and Nick Hind will likely be given freer reign with another key defender in Stewart, while the addition of Massimo D’Ambrosio gives Sam Durham another linking option up the ground.

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