MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 03: Jake Stringer of the Bombers celebrates a goal with Darcy Parish of the Bombers during the 2021 AFL Round 03 match between the Essendon Bombers and the St Kilda Saints at Marvel Stadium on April 03, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

After a surprising 2021 season that saw a youthful Essendon side make the finals, head coach Ben Rutten will be looking to continue the development of his roster.

While the Bombers failed to win a final yet again, they look to be in good stead to take the next step forward - a step that has been almost 18-years in the making.

The promising team was entertaining to watch and that is sure to continue after adding more youngsters at the National Draft.

Ins: Ben Hobbs (National Draft), Jake Kelly (Adelaide), Alastair Lord (National Draft), Garrett McDonagh (National Draft), Patrick Voss (Rookie Draft).

Outs: Patrick Ambrose (retired), Ned Cahill (delisted), Dylan Clarke (delisted), Martin Gleeson (delisted), Cale Hooker (retired), Lachlan Johnson (delisted), Irving Mosquito (delisted), David Zaharakis (delisted).


Ideally, the Dons would like to have key defender Michael Hurley in the side.

The veteran missed all of 2021 due to a hip infection but is on track for a return, just not in Round 1.

The back six still sees some handy names, with captain Dyson Heppell running the operation from the defensive half.

Heppell found a new home defence after a dreadful run of injuries, and hasn't looked back.

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Mason Redman, Jayden Laverde and Jordan Ridley are all heading into the prime of their careers.

Ridley was a best and fairest winner in 2020, and last season, the interceptor enjoyed a  better year statistically, so things should only be going up.

The off-season also saw former Crow Jake Kelly find his way across the border. The versatile defender will add some depth to the team and some needed experience.


At the present, the Hangar at Tullamarine is loaded with plenty of jets.

Essendon will enter 2022 with its core midfield from 2021.

The star trio of Zach Merrett, Andrew McGrath and Darcy Parish will cause headaches for the opposition.

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With the latter's breakout season in 2021, the sky is the limit for the Geelong Falcons prodcut, as he continues his strides towards the competition's elite echelon.

2021 saw usual forward Jake Stringer unleashed in the midfield, where he was a clearance machine, and provided the big body that was necessary at stoppages.

Young ruck Sam Draper will continue to develop, alongside other youngsters Nik Cox and Archie Perkins.


The Bombers will be planning to have Harrison Jones and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti back for the start of the season after both missed their elimination final against the Dogs.

This will be a big boost for the side that only kicked four goals in the final and failed to split the sticks in the second half.

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Stringer will feature forward, but with his performances in the centre, it would be smart to rotate him between both positions.

Even after spending a large portion of the season in the centre, the 27-year-old was the club's leading goalkicker with 41 goals.

There is a supposed lack of a key forward at the Dons, but the presence of Peter Wright and Aaron Francis does help a bit. Still, a genuine key forward would be welcomed with open wings by the Dons.

Best 22

B: Mason Redman, Jayden Laverde, James Stewart
HB: Dyson Heppell, Jordan Ridley, Nick Hind
C: Nik Cox, Zach Merrett, Kyle Langford
HF: Jake Stringer, Harrison Jones, Archie Perkins
F: Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Peter Wright, Devon Smith
Foll: Sam Draper, Darcy Parish, Andrew McGrath
I/C: Dylan ShielJake Kelly, Jye Caldwell, Will Snelling

Emerg: Matt Guelfi, Sam Durham, Zach Reid, Aaron Francis