Rutten outlines Dons improvement
ESSENDON coach Ben Rutten has outlined the area within his team where he would like to see improvement.
The Bombers played finals footy in 2021, but were found wanting in their elimination final loss to the Western Bulldogs, particularly around the contested ball.
As the club begins preparations for season 2022, Rutten has identified winning that inside midfield battle as one key aspect of where the team must get better in order to be competitive next season and beyond.
“That’s certainly an area in which we need to keep building on. It’s just the craft and that consistency of what we do,” he said on SEN Breakfast.
“I think our final was a great example of that. We were going pretty well against the Bulldogs, up by 10 or 12 at half-time, and we probably missed a few opportunities in front of goal that hurt us on the scoreboard.
“The game kind of flipped on its head in that second half. The weather made the game a little bit more contested and that was where the Bulldogs shone through and overwhelmed us a little bit around the contest.
“That’s certainly an area which we need to continue to evolve and progress and just build that consistency amongst our group.”
With the trade period warming up, the Bombers could perhaps look toward recruitment as a way to address that problem area.
While Rutten acknowledges that the club will be active in this space, he is keen to develop existing talent from within.
“If we think it’s going to strengthen and improve our squad then we certainly will be [active],” he added.
“Probably what we did this time last year was I thought we had a lot of things within our squad that we hadn’t uncovered yet.
“I was really keen, other than looking elsewhere, to actually continue to develop and see what we’ve got on our list. We had some really strong examples of that over the last season with Jayden Laverde going down back, Tommy Cutler in the last six or seven weeks going down back, Darcy Parish.
“So to be able to continue to develop the guys we had on the list was a really important priority for us and I still think there is a hell of a lot of improvement we’ve got within our list.
“I’m really keen to exhaust that as much as we can over the next one, two, three years. Certainly if we think we can improve our list externally we’ll be doing that, but it’s not going to compromise some of the plans we’ve got in place.”
Rutten insists that the Dons have an inside mid option already in their grasp in the form of Jye Caldwell who joined the club in last year’s trade period.
“We saw three games out of Jye Caldwell and I’ve got some really high hopes on Jye,” said Rutten.
“He was probably our best performer throughout the pre-season in terms of our training and pre-season games. I was really disappointed that we lost him (to injury) in the second round.
“He’s a third going into his fourth-year player. He’s a big, strong, inside player and he’s got fantastic hands. I think he’ll really be able to complement Darcy (Parish), (Zach) Merrett and (Dylan) Shiel in and around the ball.
“Again, that’s another example of rather than looking elsewhere I’m really keen to work out what we’ve got in our squad because I think we’ve got a fair bit of capacity still there.”
Dylan Shiel is another who was restricted by injuries in 2021 and the Dons coach is looking forward to having his clearance expertise and dynamic run back at his disposal.
“He had as good a strike rate at centre bounce as any player in the competition early in the season and then we just missed him,” Rutten said of Shiel.
“I think to be able to play him in and around the ball and ahead of the ball is going to be where Dylan best suits.
“He’s an A-grade player, so to be able to get him and Caldwell into that midfield mix that we didn’t have for large parts of the season will really strength our playing group.”
Rutten said another pursuit of Western Bulldogs midfielder Josh Dunkley was “not on the table at this point”.
Departing Adelaide defender Jake Kelly has nominated Essendon as his club of choice and is expected to join as an unrestricted free agent while delisted St Kilda midfielder Luke Dunstan has also indicated that he would be open to joining the Bombers.
– BY SEN