Roundly applauded as one of the winners of the trade period, the Essendon Bombers shelled their ‘hard-to-deal-with’ tag and made significant moves in a trade period for the first time in a long time. Traditionally quiet in the trade period, it was a welcome change for Dons fans, who got a full three weeks of trade excitement as the Jake Stringer saga stretched out to the last days.
Ins: Jake Stringer, Adam Saad and Devon Smith, 2018 second-round pick (GWS)
Outs: Pick 11, Pick 30, 2018 second-round pick, 2018 third-round pick
Retired: Jobe Watson, Brent Stanton, James Kelly
Delisted: Heath Hocking, Ben Howlett, Craig Bird
Three key ins for the Bombers as they found three players on the cheap, all of whom are undoubtedly in their best 22 and fit the Bombers’ gameplan to a T. Former All-Australian, Jake Stringer, comes to the club after two poor seasons at the Bulldogs and some widely publicised personal issues. The worry, of course, is that these off-field issues continue to hamper him, and his patchy, but overall lacklustre form on it continues. However, at his best, he adds even more X-factor to a forward line certainly not short of excitement. A mid-sized forward who plays quite tall, it has the knock-on effect that it allows Cale Hooker to play back at times if needed as a quality second key defender behind Michael Hurley.
Key players traded in
Devon Smith played as a midfielder and forward during his time at the Greater Western Sydney Giants, but Essendon have already said that they plan to use him through the middle. The Bombers have a hole to fill in the middle of the park since Jobe Watson has retired. Smith may not be the same calibre of player, or a hard nut like Watson, but he will bring a physical intensity and inside presence that the Bombers have severely lacked in past seasons. Smith has averaged five tackles per game which would have been amongst the Bombers leaders in that stat, and 6.6 contested possessions which would be in the Bombers’ top ten.
Adam Saad brings another dimension to a defensive unit that is beginning to look more and more complete, and will contribute to the fast-paced rebound football the Bombers are employing. While Hurley can pay as a key defender or a roaming intercepter and Andrew McGrath looks to be a genuine ball winner and someone that can be trusted to use it well. Saad adds another dimension in that he brings some pure pace; until now, Conor McKenna was their only true speedster.
While the Bombers have strengthened at both end of the grounds, it has the knock-on effect that they will be able to play all their best wall winners through the midfield, and hopefully neutralise the midfield deficit they suffered last year.
To get all this, they had to give up some draft picks. However, they didn’t do too badly in that they gave up three picks and brought in 3 players, while managing to hold onto their first round pick for next year, in what’s touted as a super-draft. Any concerns about draft picks being traded away should be muted; trading away draft picks only really becomes problematic when done year on year. Besides, for a team in its premiership window, 19-year-olds are less valuable; so too late round picks, which the Bombers are hoping the ones they traded away will be (the GWS second rounder they brought in as part of the Smith deal may actually turn out to be more valuable than their own pick they traded away for Saad).
Final word and rating
There’s so much to like about this trade period for the Bombers; not least that they appear to be a destination club. A year ago it seemed ludicrous to even the most one-eyed Bombers supporter that players would be choosing to come to Tullamarine only a short period after the supplements saga that soiled their image. Also pleasing is that after three players nominated Essendon as their club of choice, Adrian Dodoro and his team were able to bring all three in, shedding their image as hard to deal with.
The best part though? The moves the Bombers made in the trade period are ones made only by a club that believes its Premiership window is open, and with the superstar pickups, they made, who can argue with them?
Final Rating: A+
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