Whether you’re a staunch realist or the most delusional Bombers supporter in the country, your expectations for the 2016 AFL season at this point aren’t exactly sky high. The season long drug-related suspensions of 12 Essendon players ‒ including stars Dyson Heppell, Michael Hurley and skipper Jobe Watson ‒ would be difficult for any team to bear, not least a team that finished bottom 4 the previous year.
That being said, here are five things to look forward to for this coming season.
1. Absolutely humiliating the team(s) you actually beat
Since the AFL moved to a 22 game home and away season, no team has ever gone a whole season without a win. The closest teams to do so were Fitzroy in 1996 and GWS in 2013, recording one win each against Fremantle and Melbourne respectively.
If history is anything to go by, Essendon should be able to bank on one, two or maybe more wins. And imagine if those wins come against competitive rival clubs like North Melbourne or Richmond. As a Tigers supporter, I’d avoid my Bomber mates for at least a fortnight if they managed to snatch a win.
Even the spoon is not a foregone conclusion, with clubs like Carlton and Brisbane looking to snatch that elusive number one draft pick.
2. Fast tracking the development of some kids
With less competition for spots and low to no expectations for the season, young guns like Darcy Parish, Marty Gleeson, and Jayden Laverde et al will be able to play plenty of games. As long as they’re protected by the bigger bodies of the top up players, the extra experience should hold them in very good stead for the future.
3. Knowing that you’ve bent some clubs over the trade table, at least for this season
Sending Jake Melksham to the Demons for pick 25 is as close to bartering “magic beans” for a cow as reality allows.
Jake Carlisle and pick 44 for pick 5 (used on Darcy Parish) and Craig Bird is an absolute steal. His particular brand of “white line fever” won’t be missed either.
4. Never having to see that disgusting silver clash Guernsey again
Though it may never see a win, the new vibrant red on red jumper unveiled for this year marks the end of the grey abomination’s reign of terror. Seriously, that thing was total trash.
5. Rebounding in 2017
A season of complete catharsis looks less and less likely with the players resolving to appeal their bans. That said, a season of virtually no injury risk, mental refreshment and general development is a nice silver lining.
And just quietly: when Essendon finished last in 1921, they won back to back flags in 1923-24, the quickest turnaround from wooden spoon to premiership in the history of the sport.
So take heart Bombers fans – there’s plenty to see you through the year that isn’t just at the bottom of a bottle.