Geelong great Cameron Mooney has fired a rocket in the direction of Essendon ahead of this year’s AFL season.
The Bombers have been one of the competition’s most consistent underperformers since almost winning back-to-back premierships in 2001 when they lost the decider to Brisbane.
They played and won finals in every season between 1999 and 2004, but have appeared in just six finals matches since then, winning none of them.
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It’s the competition’s longest active period without a finals win, a streak that has plagued their social narrative since becoming common knowledge.
After hiring and sacking yet another failed coach in Ben Rutten at the end of 2022, Essendon fans’ hopes now hinge on Brad Scott, under whose leadership the Bombers finished 10th in 2023.
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Mooney, who won two premierships with the Cats and one with North Melbourne during his AFL career, said it was time for the Bombers’ core group of stars to lift the club back up into contention.
“My thing with Essendon is: when are they going to stand up as a playing group?” Mooney said on SEN.
“Let’s be honest, they’re the butt of jokes — you go on Twitter (now X), ‘They haven’t played finals in this many days’, and all of that.
Essendon players are gearing up for the 2024 season. Credit: Graham Denholm/Getty Images
“This is one of the biggest clubs in the country, but it hasn’t been a great club for a long time. I hope people understand what I’m trying to say there.
“On field, they have not performed, and I’m looking at some guys here, and I’ll throw some names — guys who have played over 100 games for this footy club who haven’t seen a finals (win) yet. (Kyle) Langford, (Jayden) Laverde, (Andrew) McGrath, (Zach) Merrett, (Darcy) Parish, (Mason) Redman, (Jake) Stringer, all of these guys — Stringer obviously came from the Bulldogs (where he won a premiership).”
Mooney questioned whether the Essendon players had got comfortable in their lives without the hunger for finals.
“It’s about time you go, ‘I’m sick of just being an AFL player — I want to be a finals player’,” he said.
“There’s a big difference between, ‘I’m on a list and I get paid and I play 23 games and then at the start of September I go on a holiday’ — that’s a s*** career. I’m sorry, that’s s***.
“I want to play finals footy, and this club now needs to stand up and say ‘I want to play finals footy’.
“And those boys, I hope they have driven this group so hard this pre-season. I hope they have been belting each other on the training track. I hope there’s two blokes who had a bit of a scuffle.
“Just give us something because this club is too good of a club to be on the back of jokes. (It’s been) way too long. It’s actually embarrassing. You’re too good of a club for this.
“It’s time that group there that I was talking about, the (group of) 100-plus, 150 to 200 (game players) — mate, just take the bull by the horns, boys.”
Zach Merrett is leading the charge for Essendon. Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos/AFL Photos via Getty Images
The Bombers were among the most active clubs during last year’s trade and free agency period, bringing in four experienced players from other clubs, headlined by lucrative deals for former North Melbourne key defender Ben McKay and classy former St Kilda midfielder, Jade Gresham.
The pair joined The Hangar as free agents, as did veteran ruck Todd Goldstein, whose 315 games for the Kangaroos are among the best in the modern history of rucks.
Former Port Adelaide excitement machine Xavier Duursma rounded out a quartet of big inclusions to the club, who arrived via a trade.
“You’ve brought in some good players — you’ve brought in Duursma who I think is really good, Gresham who is really good, Goldstein is a going to be a nice little added bonus for you in the ruck stocks … and then McKay — can you be a big, ruthless key defender who is going to take the number one key forward and give them hell?” Mooney said.
“Can this club give the opposition hell?”
A group of Essendon players, including new recruit Gresham, took the initiative to go on a self-funded high-altitude training camp in Arizona before Christmas. ‘