The Bombers were hot and cold throughout 2021, with the club finally returning to the September action, but failing to progress past the elimination final, losing to eventual grand finalists the Western Bulldogs by 49 points.
Despite the expectation that injuries would take their toll on the club, the Bombers midfield seemed to click, helped by the emergence of Darcy Parish as a star of the competition. Essendon started the year slow, winning just one of their first five games, but produced an impressive run of form late in the season to earn a finals spot.
Despite their appearance in September, the Bombers will be rueing their final performance and looking to improve in 2022. With work put into the draft over the off-season and plenty of talent on the list still developing, the Bombers are perfectly placed to make another run at finals action.
In: Jake Kelly, Ben Hobbs, Alastair Lord, Garrett McDonagh, Patrick Voss, Tex Wanganeen, Nick Martin
Out: Ross McQuillan, Patrick Ambrose, Cale Hooker, David Zaharakis, Irving Mosquito, Ned Cahill, Lachlan Johnson, Marty Gleeson, Dylan Clarke
Disposals - 5th
Disposal Efficiency - 1st
Turnovers - 3rd
Contested Possessions - 16th
Intercepts - 14th
Hit-Outs - 15th
Star player: Darcy Parish
Parish had a standout season in 2021 which elevated him into a bonafide star of the competition. Playing 23 games for the season, Parish averaged 30.5, 7.5 clearances and 3.9 tackles per game, efforts which saw him justifiably rewarded the ANZAC Medal and an All Australian blazer.
In a competitive Essendon midfield, Parish is expected to hold his own in 2022 and earn many more accolades and will be one of the most important cogs in the Bombers engine room.
One to watch: Nik Cox
With an impressive rookie year under his belt, Cox is primed for a breakout season in 2022. The 20-year-old managed 22 games last season, averaging 11.8 disposals and 3.7 marks per game.
Standing at 200cm tall while possessing impressive athleticism, Cox can be used around the ground for the Bombers and have an impact around the ball and in the air.
Predominantly used in the centre in 2021, Cox should be a predominant feature in the Bombers side in 2022, if he can maintain consistent form as he continues to develop at senior level.
Under pressure: Aaron Francis
The 24-year-old finds himself out of contract at the end of 2022 after an up and down 2021 season. Francis played 15 games, averaging 11.3 disposals and 1.3 intercept marks per game, as he struggled to lock down a solid key position role.
Having spent most of his 50 game career between both ends of the ground, Francis may find himself in the forward 50 more often in 2022 to make up for a lack of depth in attack. This new move may potentially reinvigorate Francis’ career and keep him away from the blowtorch for another season should he show enough to earn a new contract.
Essendon have plenty of star power worthy of a top eight team, but seem to have issues with consistency, seen in 2021. Last season, the Bombers’ slow start almost cost them a spot in finals footy. In 2022, with their first four games against Geelong, Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide, Essendon will need to show plenty in the first month.
Unfortunately for the Bombers, their depth issues have placed expectations on them as a solid mid-tier team, a section of the ladder that will be quite competitive in 2022. There’s no guarantee that Essendon will be able to fight into the top eight unless everything clicks, so this could be another year of development for Ben Rutten and his men.
Five matches to watch
Round 1 vs. Geelong, MCG, Saturday March 19
Round 6 vs. Collingwood, MCG, Monday April 25
Round 10 vs. Richmond, MCG, TBC
Round 12 vs. Carlton, MCG, TBC
Round 18 vs. Collingwood, MCG, TBC
All time games
- Dustin Fletcher - 400
- Simon Madden - 378
- Tim Watson - 307
- Garry Foulds - 300
- Terry Daniher - 294
All time goals
- Matthew Lloyd - 926
- Simon Madden - 575
- John Coleman - 537
- Paul Salmon - 520
- Bill Hutchison - 496
MOST DISPOSALS: Zach Merrett - 725
MOST TACKLES: Zach Merrett - 112
MOST CLEARANCES: Darcy Parish - 86
MOST MARKS: Jayden Laverde - 134
MOST GOALS: Jake Stringer - 41