As part of a club-by-club series, we look at Matthew Knights facing up to post-Matthew Lloyd reality at Windy Hill.
Live selections: 10, 24, 26, 33
You could argue it was a year too late. Finally, the curtain has come down on the Lloyd/Lucas show. Scott Lucas saw the writing on the wall early while Matthew Lloyd had to be pushed, but the end result is that we now get to see whether Matthew Knights’ strategy of allowing Jay Neagle, Scott Gumbleton and Darcy Daniher to play second fiddle to former stars for the first year or two of their development is going to pay off. Neagle has shown promise, Daniher has not, while Gumby hasn’t shown anything at all in the face of a massive injury toll.
There are two wild cards in the Essendon depth charts. The first is Michael Hurley. He was drafted as a defender, and played most of his AFL footy in 2009 there, but his heroics up forward in the round 22 match against Hawthorn will have Knights’ trigger finger drifting towards the magnet labeled HURLEY in tough situations in the future.
The second wild card is Patrick Ryder. For one more year, the backline will be held together by Dustin Fletcher, though this is another situation where it can be argued that his presence stifles his proteges’ learning curve more than it helps, given how rudderless the kids looked at times in 2009 when he was off the ground. Where does Ryder fit in once David Hille is fit and firing again? Does Ryder become a spare parts man, filling the role just vacated by Adam McPhee?
All this means that the Bombers should probably invest that #10 pick in another tall, as well as one or two of their other three picks inside the top 35. Add some youthful speed and Essendon should be aiming at another top 8 finish in 2010.