Essendon sacks Ben Rutten, John Worsfold press conference, failed Alastair Clarkson lawsuit
Almost two years ago, John Worsfold, then Essendon manager, sat down for his usual post-match press conference.
Only this time it was anything but standard.
“I understand that the people of Essendon think Essendon should be better, but they also need to understand that the competition is now challenging clubs to work by the same rules – the draft and the salary cap,” he said. he told reporters.
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“No team has more of a right to succeed faster than any other team, just because they are a renowned club.
“You have to stick together and commit to getting the job done. Good clubs will do it and come out on top.
Worsfold’s comments now seem prophetic.
Last week, the Bombers rushed in the 11th hour to try and secure the services of Alastair Clarkson. They believed it was important to be a “big club”, given their position in the VFL/AFL pantheon. could somehow avoid any reasonable and thoughtful process that a club like North Melbourne had engaged in and were steadfast.
That they failed to land Clarkson is, in hindsight and with the benefit of Clarkson’s comments, hardly surprising.
What he does, however, is talk about the level of hubris involved even considering the Ave Maria was a chance to happen – a hubris that Worsfold had warned about.
Essendon asked Clarkson management to answer the phone last week and set up a meeting with new chairman David Barham. But that was about it.
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“In fairness to the people I know at the Bombers … it was really out of respect for those people and I had to return that respect with dignity and at least listen to what they had to say,” Clarkson said during his first press conference as North Melbourne’s newly appointed senior coach.
“But the due diligence required to actually consider coaching a club takes me well over four days. He just ran out of time.
“In different circumstances and at a different time, who knows? But it was the right solution for me right now.
It’s no wonder former Collingwood chairman Eddie McGuire reacted the way he did immediately after Worsfold’s comments in 2020.
“I think he just left the greatest bomb of all time with a game to go. He just crushed them on the way out,” McGuire said on Triple M.
“That’s the biggest setback I’ve heard come out the door. Wow, that’s amazing.
The pitfalls Worsfold had warned against clearly counted for little in the eyes of a divided Essendon board.
One of those ‘Essendon people’ Worsfold refers to could well be the club’s current chairman Barham, who has been on the board since 2015.
He received harsh comments from several Essendon players when he met them last week and now has to bridge a huge chasm between the club’s power brokers and several of the club’s senior players.
One of the leaders of the club, Zach Merrett, told AFL 360 last week, even before Essendon finally terminated Ben Rutten’s contract after dragging him through the mud for the week.
“I think I was probably criticized last year for signing a contract over the management of the club,” he said.
“To sit here in a bit of a mess 12 months later is a little disappointing.”
It must be said, Merrett went on to admit: “I’m committed long term to the club and I’m really excited and hopefully in the next two, three, four, five months they really know what they’re up to. we want to achieve and how we are going to achieve it and I will massively align myself with this path.
If Merrett was given a crystal ball and could see where the club is currently at, he would definitely be playing elsewhere right now.
Worsfold’s comments in 2020 clearly angered some in the Essendon hierarchy and led to a rare moment when he read a prepared statement to clarify his comments.
Shortly after, however, he made further comments that once again make for somber reading two years later.
“The benchmark was that it’s hard to win a premiership and it doesn’t happen overnight,” he said.
“I saw Damien Hardwick do such a good job at Richmond Football Club from 2010 but it took him seven or eight years to finally get that premiership.
“During this period there was a massive call to change everything, to change the coach, to change the board, and they stayed there.
“I would just implore the people of Essendon to continue to support the club, to support Ben Rutten, to support this group of players to take them forward.
“It will be difficult and there is a lot of work to do, but I know they are ready.”
The more things change, the more they stay the same.