The Bombers surprised everyone in 2021 by sneaking into finals on the back of a strong finish. Led by performances from their midfield stars, the emergence of a new crop made them the buzz team last year.
The real challenge now comes with the weight of expectation. An undoubtedly talented list will now look to push on to another level. Last year proved to be the season we saw Darcy Parish establish himself as a superstar of the competition.
His stunning year was capped off by rightly being named in the All-Australian team and a top-five Brownlow finish with 26 votes. With Parish ably aided by the likes of Jake Stringer, Zach Merrett, Jordan Ridley, Andy McGrath and Nick Hind, the core talent is strong.
While the lack of depth at key positions is a concern, the club will be hoping another year of development will present new options. Having not won a final in over 6000 days, they will be keen to banish that demon once and for all.
Outs: Patrick Ambrose (Retired), Ned Cahill (Delisted), Marty Gleeson (Delisted), Cale Hooker (Retired), Lachie Johnson (Delisted), Sam McQuillan (Retired), Irving Mosquito (Delisted), David Zaharakis (Delisted)
Things could not have gone much better for the Bombers in 2021. After attacking the draft in 2020, the Dons injected some youth into a squad that looked in need of rejuvenation.
Although most had no expectations of finals, the Dons started the season strongly with some impressive wins. The emergence of Nick Hind out of defence and Darcy Parish as one of the competition's elite midfielders hinted at a new dawn.
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While the immediate impact of their young draftees in Nik Cox, Archie Perkins and Harrison Jones had the AFL world talking, as the season hit the business end, it became apparent this young outfit were a real chance to play finals.
A strong finish to the season, led by the superb Jake Stringer, saw the finals drought broken and some valuable experience added to the younger players in the ranks. The key now will be if they can overcome the next hurdle and secure a finals win.