Essendon’s VFL team was a flag favourite at the start of the season, but coach Hayden Skipworth says the Bombers drugs scandal has played little part in the VFL team’s poor on-field results this season.
The Bombers were one of the big players in off-season, recruiting in their first season as a stand-alone club in the VFL.
They recruited former AFL players such as Matthew Bate (ex-Melbourne) and Josh Toy (ex-Gold Coast) along with some renowned state league talent, including Ben Duscher, Matt Firman and Michael Sikora, during the pre-season to top up their promising AFL depth.
”Not necessarily. I think, if anything, it [the drugs scandal] has galvanised the whole squad,” Skipworth said. ”We certainly haven’t seen anything game day that reflects on what’s happening externally.”
Joe Daniher, who has been a developing youngster in his first season at the Bombers, described footy as a release from the external pressure. ”As a playing group, we’ve just been focusing on footy and footy’s been our outlet,” Daniher said. ”All the guys have really enjoyed playing together and coming together. I suppose it’s been a bit of a release from what’s going on outside.”
AFL Victoria confirmed last week it would liaise with the AFL once the ASADA investigation is complete to determine any potential sanctions for the Bombers in the VFL.
Skipworth hopes the Bombers’ win over the Northern Blues last weekend is a season-changer. It was just their fourth win of the season and they are still virtually two games out of the top eight.
”It was the first one [four-quarter performance] we had for a while. We were 42 points up against Werribee and dropped that one and we’ve lost three or four others by under two goals, so to be able to put a four-quarter performance and get a good win, is what the players need – and certainly the coach needed as well,” Skipworth said.
”The goal is still to make the finals, so hopefully we can finish off the season and get a bit of a run on and sneak into the finals.”
Skipworth said ruckman David Hille, who is likely to be in his final season at the Bombers, has played a strong part in the club’s revival since returning from overseas.
”We’ve certainly been a better team [with Hille],” Skipworth said. ”Not only his performances, but his leadership and voice out there with the young guys has been first rate. Gumby’s [Scott Gumbleton] been giving him a chop out, and Joey [Daniher] at times as well. To have those guys as mobile forwards that can pinch hit in the ruck gives us flexibility,” he said.
The Bombers join the Northern Blues, North Ballarat, Frankston and even Sandringham, who play on Saturday against Williamstown, as teams in the race for eighth spot.
Frankston has been a revelation after notching its fifth win last week. Forward Khan Haretuku said the players were motivated to play finals again. ”From the inside, we still get around each other, we love each other’s company, there’s no finger-pointing in the reviews, it’s just what we can do next,” Haretuku said.
Meanwhile, Werribee faces a tough test against Casey on Sunday, just five days after being knocked out of the Foxtel Cup by East Fremantle at Patersons Stadium.
VFL Round 13 split round (with tips in capitals)
Sandringham v WILLIAMSTOWN,
Trevor Barker Beach Oval, 1.10pm
Werribee Tigers v CASEY SCORPIONS,
Avalon Airport Oval, 2pm
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.