Last year was disastrous for Essendon. Ater a solid first season under Ben Rutton in 2021, they slid significantly in 2022.

On-field struggles; finishing bottom four, mixed with off-field issues; a mishandled sacking of their coach, a failed last-minute attempt to lure Alastair Clarkson to the club and an exodus at board level, made 2022 a year to forget.

Now with a new coach in Brad Scott, how will the Bombers perform?

There are no expectations yet on Scott, but many will question if he can be the man to break their finals win drought. Time will tell, but given he took a less-than-impressive North Melbourne outfit to two consecutive prelims, it seems likely he will for some supporters.

Ins: Jayden DaveyAlwyn Davey JrLewis HayesRhett Montgomerie, Anthony Munkara, Will Setterfield (Carlton Blues), Elijah Tsatas, Sam Weideman (Melbourne Demons)

Outs: Cody Brand (delisted), Tom Cutler (delisted), Joshua Eyre (delisted), Aaron Francis (Sydney Swans), Brayden Ham (delisted), Tom Hird (delisted), Michael Hurley (retired), Garrett McDonagh (delisted), Devon Smith (retired), Alec Waterman (delisted)

Here we assess Essendon's depth chart for 2023 and name their best 23-man side.


Essendon really needs its back six to gel and become a defensive structure to stop high scores. 13 times a team scored 90 or more against them in 2022.

The foundation for a solid defence is there though.

Jayden Laverde remains as the key defender, a role he has played for two seasons, but wouldn't necessarily be the first choice.

Jordan Ridley has also served as a shoo-in key defender but he is clearly served better as an intercept marker, given he won a best and fairest in 2020 playing that role.

Rounding out the talls is Brandon Zerk-Thatcher, who improved last season, and could rotate with Ridley and Laverde.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 02: Brandon Zerk-Thatcher of the Bombers marks the ball during the round 16 AFL match between the Essendon Bombers and the Sydney Swans at Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 02, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

Now for the run and dash, Nick Hind, Mason Redman and Andrew McGrath provide just that, and exceptionally well.

McGrath was trialled in the midfield during Rutten's entire tenure but things didn't work out, and he found himself at half-back. It has been hinted he'll remain there.

The 2017 Rising Star winner (as a defender) could provide the line-breaking that Redman displays.

Jake Kelly will continue to take the opposition's best small forward while impressive mid-season draftee Massimo D'Ambrosio will support the starting backmen.


A midfield that contains Zach Merrett, Darcy Parish and Dylan Shiel, is suited well.

Well all know what Merrett brings to the table as a three-time best and fairest and dual All-Australian. He is the player Dons faithful want to win the ball in the centre.

Parish broke out in 2021 to become one of the league's best midfielders and nearly those levels performance-wise in 2022. Should hopefully continue to star in the Bombers' engine room.

Despite the knock on his kicking skills, Shiel can play an important role in this side, he is a former All-Australian after all.

Expect cult hero Sam Draper to be the sole ruckman, with forward Peter Wright (more on him later) to provide support if needed. This leaves Andrew Phillips out of the side.

On the outside we have a youth takeover, with Nic Martin and Sam Durham. Martin worked hard last season on the wing and could even be used to shut down other wingmen. 

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 19: Nic Martin of the Bombers avoids a tackle during the round one AFL match between the Geelong Cats and the Essendon Bombers at Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 19, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images via AFL Photos)

Jye Caldwell further adds to the youth in the middle.

Sadly skipper Dyson Heppell finds himself out of the team, for someone his age and usual class, he hasn't provided enough to warrant his place, other than being captain. 

Archie Perkins hasn't had his breakout yet but is talented, and is someone who can play in the middle and support them or play up forward.

Carlton recruit Will Setterfield is an interesting study. He is bigger-bodied than most of the midfield and will surely come into the team at some stage.


There sits a pretty tall forward line at the Hangar, with five of them over 190cm.

At North Melbourne, Brad Scott had plenty of talls and it seems history may have repeated itself.

The full forward position could go to either Peter Wright or Melbourne recruit Sam Weideman. Wright, last year's best and fairest winner, is a better long-distance kick, so he'll go up to half-forward.

Harrison Jones will be relieved with Weideman's arrival, making him the third tall, and taking pressure off the youngster.

Kyle Langford can play anywhere, while Matt Guelfi serves as a small forward.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 19: Kyle Langford of the Bombers leaves the field injured during the 2022 AFL Round 01 match between the Geelong Cats and the Essendon Bombers at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 19, 2022 In Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Jake Stringer dominated in the midfield at times but it's been said he'll make a permanent move to the forward line.

Ben Hobbs impressed many and is on the brink of the team, expect him as a sub, clocking minutes forward and in the midfield.


FB: Jordan Ridley, Jayden Laverde, Nick Hind
HB: Mason Redman, Brandon Zerk-Thatcher, Andrew McGrath
C: Nic Martin, Zach Merrett, Sam Durham
HF: Harrison Jones, Peter Wright, Kyle Langford
FF: Jake Stringer, Sam Weideman, Matt Guelfi
FOL: Sam Draper, Darcy Parish, Dylan Shiel
INT: Massimo D'Ambrosio, Jye Caldwell, Archie Perkins, Jake Kelly
Sub: Ben Hobbs

EMER: Will Setterfield, Dyson Heppell, Andrew Phillips

We've picked our side, now it's time for you to pick yours with our PICK YOUR TEAM page. 


  1. If Walla keeps up his impressive comeback, fitness wise he MUST be in, quite likely for Guelfi, who despite his tackling pressure is not a natural forward or goal kicker.

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