In the wake of the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision to suspend Essendon players for the full 2016 season, we thought we’d take a preliminary look at just how much this impacts Essendon’s onfield prospects.
The CAS has decided to enforce the full two-year anti-doping rule violation suspension against the Essendon players, rejecting arguments for reduction based on fault or cooperation. This has the practical result of suspending 12 Essendon players (Bellchambers, Colyer, Heppell, Hibberd, Hocking, Hooker, Howlett, Hurley, Myers, Pears, Stanton and Watson) and 5 others currently in the AFL (Carlisle, Melksham, Monfries, Ryder and Crameri) for the full 2016 season
The table below takes the 2015 AFL stats of the 2016 Essendon list as it currently stands, and identifies the percentage of each category’s output lost to the suspension of 12 players at the club. It does not incorporate retirees, traded players and delistings such as Dustin Fletcher, Jake Carlisle and Alex Browne as these players were not available to Essendon this year regardless. It does however add in the outputs of Leuenberger and Bird who are available to the club.
As we can see, in nearly every category the Bombers have lost close to half of the recent game output they had counted on carrying into 2016. Huge deficiencies now exist on every line at a club that was already bottom four in 2015.
Notable here are the clearances as an indicator of midfield performance, with club leader Dyson Heppell’s 111 (five per game) constituting nearly 1/6th of Essendon’s clearance work in 2015 and Watson also having contributed 5 clearances per game in fewer matches. Other prominent contributors included Howlett, Stanton and Hocking, also now unavailable.
Craig Bird’s 16 clearances from 6 games now puts him 4th on a per-game clearance basis among remaining Essendon players behind McKernan (3.9 pg), Goddard (3.3 pg) and Nick O’Brien (3.2 pg). Essendon have to basically find a new frontline midfield group.
Essendon’s already poor goalkicking has also taken a big hit. Joe Daniher, club leader with 35 in 2015 remains, but Goddard and Cooney (10 each) are the only other double figures goalscorers in 2015 with the loss of Hooker (21), Heppell (13), Colyer (11 and Howlett (10), as well as Carlisle being lost to the club already. Shaun McKernan’s 6 goals from 9 games in 2015 makes him now critical to the Bombers as a goalscoring option.
Defensive statistics are more difficult to come by, but we’ll just note that Essendon’s frontline key position defenders with AFL experience now appear to be James Gwilt and Mitch Brown, both of which were delisted in 2014 by other AFL clubs.
It remains to be seen how Essendon manage to top-up their list, we assume it will be with recently delisted or retired players from state leagues. However, suffice it to say an already-struggling Essendon face a big challenge to field competitive sides this season.