The 2020 season will end for 10 clubs this weekend, and there are already reports of “serious unrest” among Essendon’s depleted roster.
The 2020 season will end for 10 clubs this weekend, and there are already reports of “serious unrest” among Essendon’s depleted roster.

Bitter aftermath of sad AFL divorce

Essendon's forgettable season continues to spiral downwards after reports of "serious unrest" among the club's roster.

The Bombers finished 13th on the AFL ladder after losing nine of their last 10 encounters in the regular season.

Following Saturday afternoon's 10.8 (68) to 7.7 (49) loss to the Melbourne Demons, Essendon announced five players had been delisted from the struggling club.

Bombers boss Dan Richardson confirmed Shaun McKernan, Mitch Hibberd, Josh Begley, Kobe Mutch and Noah Gown would not return next season.

The five players join retirees Tom Bellchambers and Conor McKenna in leaving the club, giving Essendon multiple spots to fill on its 2021 roster.

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Channel 9 reported Cale Hooker and Michael Hurley are also not certain to be at Essendon in 2021, despite both players remaining contracted next year.

Shaun McKernan of the Bombers.
Shaun McKernan of the Bombers.

Although Bellchambers announced his retirement last week, the veteran ruckman was not selected for Saturday's round 18 clash on the Gold Coast.

Speaking on Fox Footy's The First Crack, St Kilda great Leigh Montagna believed the decision to deny Bellchambers a farewell match was not well received by his teammates.

"I was disappointed with this … he is one of the more popular players at that footy club. What he's been through, going through that drugs crisis, I just thought Essendon missed a trick here," Montagna said.

"A player like that, who meant so much and was fit and available, I think they really could have played him and made a big difference to this footy club.

"I understand it's left a bit of a bitter taste in a lot of the player's mouths that have played a lot of footy with Tom Bellchambers … now there's a little bit of angst there.

"They've missed a trick … it would've been nice, in a game with no finals on the line, to have played him and just gone out in the right way."

According to Fox Sports reporter Tom Morris, Melbourne have shown interest in poaching speedster Adam Saad, who finished third in Essendon's best and fairest for a second consecutive season.

Key forward Joe Daniher is also reportedly considering his future at Essendon after receiving offers from Geelong and Brisbane.

"My understanding is there's some serious unrest at Essendon at the moment. It's reflected outside the club and it's exactly the same inside the club," Morris said on The First Crack.

"(Saad) hasn't re-signed and I believe it's because he doesn't feel at this moment in time - he might be convinced, but at this moment in time - that the club is going in a way that's going to see them win a flag in the next few years.

"Who knows what's going to happen with (Orazio) Fantasia, who knows what's going to happen with (Joe) Daniher, there might be other players as well.

"There is unrest there and I wouldn't be surprised if there's some serious changes to their playing list and system of coaches over the off-season that reflect a club that, albeit didn't have a terrible season, but performed well below where they would've expected."

Tom Bellchambers of the Bombers.
Tom Bellchambers of the Bombers.

Speaking on SEN Breakfast, Essendon great Tim Watson confirmed there was "unrest" among the club's senior players, especially after the Bellchambers snub.

"There was certainly heartache around those who were long-term teammates of Tom Bellchambers - that's real," Watson said on Monday.

"I think they should have (given Bellchambers a farewell game). I saw in the interview at the weekend that (coach) Ben Rutten said Bellchambers had a disrupted year and his conditioning wasn't there.

"I don't think his conditioning was there, but when you can't make the finals and you have got a long-term servant of the football club who has done the hard yards with your team, then I just think it's a nice way to exit a player.

"If you exit players well in this game, then there is a level of gratitude that is then reciprocated, and it then spreads through the group in terms of how you treat your players.

"I think that can lead to unrest in this instance because he's a very popular bloke, Bellchambers, particularly with those that have played with him for a long time, then I think that can lead to unrest."

Watson also believed there is a "possibility" veteran defender Cale Hooker could look elsewhere next season.

GWS GIANTS

Expect to see some changes in the GWS Giants roster this off-season.

Having left the club's hub after Friday's loss to St Kilda, utility Zac Williams is reportedly eyeing a move to North Melbourne or Carlton.

Teammate Jye Caldwell is also considering a move to Victoria, with St Kilda reportedly in the running to snare the young gun.

Meanwhile, ruckman Sam Jacobs announced his retirement on the weekend, while Aidan Corr is returning to Victoria as a free agent, a move which "disappointed and shocked" Giants coach Leon Cameron.

Aidan Corr of the Giants.
Aidan Corr of the Giants.

"Just put to bed for the time being whether we as a code are mature enough to have players commit to other clubs mid-season, because that just ain't happening," Melbourne legend Garry Lyon said when discussing Corr's decision on Fox Footy.

"He's informed the Giants he's going and the Giants have said 'get out' basically. Other codes make their announcements and continue to play the season out."

Five-time premiership player Dermott Brereton believes the Giants are desperate for pace through the midfield, touting North Melbourne's Jared Polec as the player to target in the off-season.

"Someone like Jared Polec was a very, very good player at Port Adelaide when they had a very good season. At North Melbourne when they've struggled, let's be honest, he hasn't been a good player," Brereton said.

"They'll probably look to move him on if somebody picks up a portion of his wage and they take a lot of it themselves.

"The Giants would be the perfect team for him. We know about their star inside mids, it would suit him down to the ground. A player like that will help them bounce."

CARLTON

After once again failing to qualify for finals, Carlton will need to fill some glaring holes in the club's line-up before the 2021 premiership.

Club champion Kade Simpson played his final AFL game on Saturday, and four-time Hawthorn premiership player Jordan Lewis suggested the Blues will be eager to unearth a high-quality replacement.

"For Carlton, their needs are a quality half-back flanker after Kade Simpson retired. They need to fill the void there," Lewis told SEN Breakfast.

"I still think they're one inside mid short to support Patrick Cripps and get involved in their outside play. I think Zac Fisher can be inside-outside, but he's more suited as an outside mid to provide that run."

Kade Simpson of the Blues.
Kade Simpson of the Blues.

Lewis pinpointed Essendon defender Adam Saad as the ideal candidate for Calrton's backline, while Adelaide Crows star Brad Crouch could seamlessly slot into the midfield.

"We know Zac Williams is on the market, that's been pretty clear, but there are conversations around Adam Saad, so there's two quality halfbacks on the market, so it's what you have to give up in return for these quality players," Lewis said.

"I'm just hearing murmurings that Carlton are into him (Saad). That's why I threw that one out on the table.

"I think he's gettable and I'm hearing Carlton could be involved in that conversation if he was to leave Essendon.

"There's a few inside midfielders you could potentially look at. Brad Crouch is a restricted free agent, so there's a chance to get him and lock him away.

"There's another one from GWS in Harry Perryman. He's an SA boy so maybe he wants to go back home, but we hear he ants to search for another team and he's out of contract."

- With Tyson Otto and NCA NewsWire

Originally published as Bitter aftermath of sad AFL divorce



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