The findings of Essendon's highly-publicised external review are in, with the Tullamarine team claiming they are committed to fostering a stronger sense of unity inside their four walls, as well as seeking to reaffirm themselves as leaders within the Indigenous community.
The review, put in motion recently minted President David Barham, was facilitated by international auditors Ernst and Young and sought the opinions of 210 Essendon employees, including players, coaches and on-site staff.
Aided by the expert eyes of ex-Bulldogs coach Brendan McCartney and premiership Hawk Jordan Lewis, the review has stated that both the on and off-field staff, as well as communities attached to the club, need to be brought closer to its heart.
As reported by Cal Twomey of AFL Media, the 16-time premiers have also committed to "resetting the club's purpose and strategy for on-field success, with a focus on leadership and better fitness for its players."
Within his own report, Twomey stated that Essendon would be seeking to bring on board a general manager of performance and a head of development.
Employees from each of these recently constructed roles will be joined at The Hangar by the club's inaugural First Nations board member.
The Bombers have also committed to making their VFL head coach a full-time employee; one that works within the set-up of the senior program.
"This is a significant investment for the club. We will also revamp our leadership program in 2023 to focus on growing the leadership capabilities of our players now, and for the long term," Barham said.
Following Essendon's 7-15 record in 2022, and the sacking of head coach Ben Rutten, ploys towards amending these on-field woes will also be undertaken.
"The review also recommended the need to drive higher training standards and to build a better fitness base for our players leading into the season. We have accepted this, and our new AFL head coach Brad Scott has committed to a demanding pre-season designed at improving the consistency of our training standards across the entire playing group," Barham added.
"The review is also clear in its recommendation of the need for stronger alignment of the core functions within the football department.
"The areas of coaching, physical performance, player development plus list management and recruitment have lacked unity and a shared vision that is embraced by all. Creating a strong and unified football department is a key priority for general manager of football Josh Mahoney and Brad Scott during this off-season period."
Having played a leading hand in normalising the recruitment of Indigenous stars, as well as helping found the inaugural Dreamtime at the 'G clash, Essendon once held themselves head and shoulders above the competition in regard to relations with First Nations communities.
However, ahead of next month's National Draft, the Bombers have just a solitary Indigenous player on their AFL roster, Tex Wanganeen.
"The club is committed to restoring our leadership position in the Indigenous community and nurturing Indigenous talent – both players and staff. We all know about the rich history Essendon has in identifying, attracting, and developing Indigenous talent and we need to build on this into the future," Barham said of the matter.
"We need to do more to embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge and expertise at all levels of the club, including at board level. To that end, we will soon be appointing the club's inaugural First Nations Board director. This is an important step for Essendon and, quite frankly, long overdue.
"This director will lead the board's nationally focused Indigenous sub-committee to provide leadership on cultural safety and oversee our new Indigenous development program. We are looking forward to making this announcement in the coming weeks."
Essendon will enter the 2022 AFL Draft armed with picks 4, 22, 54, 62, 68, 72 and 80, as well as the option of selecting father-son twins, Jayden and Alwyn Davey Junior.
After falling to a bottom-four finish just a season after playing off in September, Essendon will be led by new coach Brad Scott in 2023.