Essendon players have returned to start their first pre-season under new coach Brad Scott, determined to prove their fitness critics wrong.
Last month Firefighters players were found to be “lacking” in training standards in an “embarrassing” review undertaken by the club after the sacking of coach Ben Rutten.
Youngster Massimo D’Ambrosio, who arrived at the club via the Mid-Season Draft to play eight games in his debut year, said he felt “unfit” towards the back end of the disastrous 2022 campaign.
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But with a new season on the horizon, the majority of the squad turned out for day one under Scott, including veterans Dyson Heppell and Jake Stringer who aren’t due back until next month.
“There’s a big turnout here (on Monday) and there’s been a big turnout at some trainings for the last month,” youngster Archie Perkins said.
“I think with the new coach and all the changes, a lot of senior boys have been really keen to get stuck into it a bit earlier.
“You always want to start well, but I don’t think we’ll have the mentality to go out there and prove people wrong.”
Perkins said players found the changes at the club “exciting” and were ready to get to work under Scott.
“I think he’s made sure that’s everyone in the mindset that we’re ready to get here and get stuck in and work hard. I think he’s going to drive some really strong standards which I think we need as a group,” he said.
“Us players didn’t really read into that (fitness) comment too much – pre-season is hard for everyone, no matter what team you are. I think any preseason you come in expecting to work hard and be challenging.
“At times we might have felt we weren’t sure what direction we were heading in (in 2022) … but Brad’s been really clear that it’s a lot of focus on development and a really strong pathway to follow.”
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D’Ambrosio said he was determined to improve his fitness heading into 2023.
“I think the consensus at the end of last season was come back really fit, and be ready to play anywhere really,” he said.
“I’m open to play anywhere – wherever Brad needs me.
“I think I just needed a preseason. I felt heading into the back end of games especially at AFL level I felt a bit unfit.
“So I think a full pre-season will get me going and hopefully play a few more games next year.”
The Bombers were savaged by critics after the review’s release, with Fox Footy’s David King shocked it took a review for players to be told they weren’t fit enough.
“If you can’t get the standards at training right, then you cannot succeed,” he said on SEN last month.
“I can’t believe it’s taken a review to get that feedback.
“If you’re a senior player at the Essendon Football Club you’re aware of that. How can you not have shifted the course of training standards through that period?