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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Ruthven

Bombers recruits key to 2024 success

Former Bomber Gary O’Donnell says Essendon’s off-season recruits will play a significant role this season as Essendon searches for its long-awaited finals win. 

After missing finals last year, the Bombers were active during the trade and free-agent period, adding four top talents to their list. 

North Melbourne duo Todd Goldstein and Ben McKay, Jade Gresham and Xavier Duursma are set to bolster Essendon’s list as they look to break 20-year finals win drought. 

Speaking on Sports Breakfast, O’Donnell says they’re going to add value to the side heading into 2024 - highlighting McKay’s importance to defence. 

“McKay's the exciting one, I think he's a pretty good player,” he said.

“He'll give us some real stability behind the footy and be able to play on some of the monsters. You could see in the Geelong practice match there were a couple of stoppages in back 50 and he was opposed to Hawkins. 

“Normally, Hawkins against us and a lot of teams just wiped the opposition, part-time forward, ruckman in a contest and has a chance to kick a goal. McKay was able to stand his ground.”  

After returning from a groin injury in the off-season, Ruck Sam Draper has slowly been building back into the season. 

Draper will partner former North Melbourne ruck Todd Goldstein in 2024, primarily spending time primarily up forward while pitching in the ruck. 

O’Donnell says while the Goldstein trade ‘surprised’ him, it will provide reassurance for Draper going forward.

“I think there probably is an assurance for Draper who's got a body that is questionable and whether it's going to get him through a whole year,” he said.

“I like Nick Bryan, there's another young kid another ruckman coming through, that if Goldstein takes too much time away from him he doesn't get the development. 

“It's a fine balance but I think he just adds his experience and some of the tricks of the trade he knows and will help those two ruckmen in their careers from this point on.” 

While bolstering their list with mature aged players will give them a lift, Essendon will need to fire on all fronts, according to O’Donnell. 

He believes to be a threat to top four sides, consistency and stronger defence throughout the course of the game is key. 

“I'd think it is all factors of the game when you haven't made the finals, you've had a disappointing year towards the end of the year,” he said.

“At times they're go into attack really well, they have some good scoring ability, but they don't defend well enough for a team that's going be a top-four threat. 

“To be able to just consistently perform over the course of the game, it takes a lot of mental attitude and if they're developing that, and they've helped that over the preseason that's going to help as well. 

“There's a lot of things that have to fall into place for Essendon to be any good this year.“



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