Ins: Alwyn Davey jnr (NAB Draft, Pick 45, Father-Son), Jayden Davey (NAB Draft, Pick 54 Father-Son), Lewis Hayes (NAB Draft, Pick 25), Rhett Montgomerie (Rookie Draft), Anthony Munkara (Category B Rookie), Will Setterfield (Trade, Carlton), Elijah Tsatas (NAB Draft, Pick 5), Sam Weideman (Trade, Melbourne)
Outs: Cody Brand (Delisted), Tom Cutler (Delisted), Josh Eyre (Delisted), Aaron Francis (Trade, Sydney), Brayden Ham (Delisted), Tom Hird (Delisted), Michael Hurley (Retired), Garrett McDonagh (Delisted), Devon Smith (Retired), Alec Waterman (Delisted)
Draw: Based on the new weighted draw brought in for the 2023 season, Essendon statistically have the easiest draw of all 18 teams. The Bombers will face Collingwood, Geelong, GWS, North Melbourne, Port Adelaide and West Coast twice throughout the season.
Forwards: Kaine Baldwin*, Nick Bryan, Jayden Davey, Matt Guelfi, Ben Hobbs, Harrison Jones, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Jye Menzie*, Anthony Munkara*, Archie Perkins, Will Snelling, Jake Stringer, Patrick Voss*, Tex Wanganeen*, Sam Weideman, Peter Wright
Midfielders: Jye Caldwell, Nikolas Cox, Alwyn Davey, Sam Durham, Kyle Langford, Nicholas Martin, Zach Merrett, Darcy Parish, Will Setterfield, Dylan Shiel, Elijah Tsatas
Rucks: Sam Draper, Andrew Phillips
Defenders: Massimo D’Ambrosio*, Lewis Hayes, Dyson Heppell, Nick Hind, Jake Kelly, Jayden Laverde, Alastair Lord, Cian McBride*, Andrew McGrath, Rhett Montgomerie*, Mason Redman, Zach Reid, Jordan Ridley, James Stewart, Brandon Zerk-Thatcher
* Indicates rookie/long term injury listed player
Ones to watch: After bursting onto the scene in 2021, Nik Cox had a disappointing season. Only able to play 5 games due to injury, expect a massive improvement in 2023 if he’s able to get a good pre-season under his belt. Former number 1 draft pick Andrew McGrath could spend more time in the midfield this year, with the Bombers set for attacking defenders in Heppell and Hind. Bombers fans will be hoping this is the year McGrath takes the next step and delivers on his potential.
Strengths: Although the Bombers midfield doesn’t have the superstars that some other sides have, Zach Merrett and Darcy Parish are both former All Australians and both can rack up touches, seemingly at will. Throw in one of the best young ruckmen in the AFL in Sam Draper, the outside run of Dylan Shiel, and the X Factor of Jake Stringer pinch hitting and the Nombers have a midfield that can beat any side on their day.
Weaknesses: Similar to most young sides, the gap between the Bombers best footy and their worst footy was very wide. Last year they lost by 30pts or more 10 times, yet also managed wins against Brisbane at the Gabba and the Swans at home. They will be hoping for another outstanding year from 2022 B&F winner Peter Wright. If Wright goes down with injury the Bombers will struggle up forward again with their lack of contested marking targets.
General thoughts: Expect another tough year for the Bombers. Brad Scott will bring discipline and training standards to the club, but their young guns might need another year or two to develop until they will be back pushing for a top 8 spot. Jake Stringer will have a big say in where the Bombers will finish in 2023. If he is fit and motivated, don’t be surprised to see him with an All Australian blazer at the end of the year.
Coach Pressure Gauge: 4/10 – What a disaster it was for the Essendon board last year with the handling of former coach Ben Rutten. The end result with Brad Scott returning to the coaching ranks was a great get, however, left many fans with a bad taste in their mouth. Scott will bring discipline and a strong game plan to the Bombers, both of which they were criticised for lacking last year. If Essendon struggle this year, expect some pressure to come on both Scott and the Board.
Breakout year: Ben Hobbs
B&F Winner: Zach Merrett
Zach Merrett – $949,000
Darcy Parish – $888,000
Ashley McGrath – $719,000
Elijah Tsatas – $292,000
Finishing spot prediction: 14th