AFL Rd 4 - Essendon v Carlton
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 27: Dylan Shiel of the Bombers (L) and Devon Smith of the Bombers look dejected after the round 4 AFL match between the Essendon Bombers and the Carlton Blues at Melbourne Cricket Ground on June 27, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Essendon’s season is in dire straights, meaning once again the Bombers are likely to go another year without winning a final.

The Bombers started 2020 scoring some scratchy wins over lesser sides but their fans were happy and the wins bought some patience from the footy world.

But that patience has since worn thin as the Bombers have stumbled to 5-5-1, with no wins during the recent footy frenzy. The Bombers last two wins have come against North Melbourne and Adelaide by just three points.

Those teams are placed 17th and 18th.

2020 was always going to be a weird season for the Bombers with Ben Rutten set to take over as head coach from John Worsfold come seasons end, but that dynamic seems under pressure already as Worsfold occupies the bench and media conferences while Rutten seemingly calls the shots on game day.

Rutten has slowed Essendon’s ball movement right down, they no longer rely on speed to move the ball forward, they want more uncontested marks but aren’t finding a flow as they move into attack.

If they do miss the finals again, what will that mean?

They have heavily invested in the free agency and trade markets with Dylan Shiel, Devon Smith and Jake Stringer having all come in on big money moves while Andrew Phillips, Jacob Townsend and Adam Saad have also landed at Tullamarine via other clubs.

These players went to Essendon in hope of chasing success, but how close is that success? Can they seriously consider it around the corner should Joe Daniher and Orazio Fantasia leave? Connor McKenna is also set to return to Ireland at seasons end.

Daniher requested a trade to Sydney last year and is expected to leave via free agency for much less compensation at the end of 2020, while Fantasia was rumoured to be interested in a move back home to Port Adelaide.

Daniher and Fantasia have had their injury troubles, but the Bombers are undoubtedly a better side when they play.

If Daniher leaves, their forward line is lacking serious fire power. Shaun McKernan and James Stewart aren’t viable options for the Bombers going forward if they want success.

Their list is full of ageing talent that seem closer to retirement than an Essendon premiership.

So if Essendon are seriously committed to chasing a 17th premiership, it would seemingly need to happen in the next 2-3 years.

But that doesn’t look likely, they’re draw this year sees them play Richmond, West Coast, Geelong and Port Adelaide in their last six games.

They’re list is full of holes, they’ve been crying out for an inside midfielder for years, they need a key forward and another pressure forward to go with that. They are desperate for a true number one ruckman and a strong key defender.

Looking forward, they must ask ‘where is the club going to find the key to success?’. Can they afford to risk targeting the free agency market? They’ve long been linked with GWS forward Jeremy Cameron but he seems unlikely to depart the Giants.

If they look to rebuild, what currency do they possess? They’re list is ageing in some parts and won’t have much value on the open market, while they’re unlikely to let any of their acquired free agents go.

Zach Merrett, Jordan Ridley, Sam Draper and Darcy Parish seem the most logical trade bait. Draper was targeted by St Kilda previously but they have since fixed their ruck issues.

They lack any real genuinely exciting young players at the moment, their youth is ok but aside from Ridley they don’t have anyone bursting onto the scene.

Essendon’s list strategy over recent years would suggest they’d be hesitant to let any of those names go anyway.

They’re list is probably too good to bottom out anytime soon but it’s not good enough to seriously challenge, it’s seemingly hardly good enough to win a final anytime soon either.

Can the Essendon fans deal with another 3-5 years of mid-table obscurity? Will the appointment of Ben Rutten buy more patience?

It feels like that’s Essendon’s plan, but if 2020 has Ben Rutten coaching the team and looking after the game-day operations, is 2021 really that exciting?

The football they’ve played in 2020 has failed to excite like they did in 2019, they have been slow and hard to watch and don’t look like scoring. Their famous half back run and carry has gone, and they look lost without a plan.

Where is the selling of hope for Essendon fans? Are the Bomber higher ups so convinced of this lists ability that they won’t attempt to sell the hope? Can they really be that naive?

If this is the list the Bombers intend to carry forward there may be more pain before success, this Essendon side is a mile off the top teams and there age profile would suggest they’re more likely to drift further away then close the gap.

A rebuild, whether complete or in part is seemingly closer than a premiership. But will Essendon accept that fact or will they be to stubborn to bite the bullet?