The Dons went to work after an "embarrassing" review said the players were not fit enough

The Dons went to work after an “embarrassing” review said the players were not fit enough

Essendon’s players have returned to start their first pre-season under new coach Brad Scott, determined to prove their fitness critics wrong.

Last month, Bombers players were found to be “lacking” in training standards in an “embarrassing” review carried out by the club following the sacking of coach Ben Rutten.

Youngster Massimo D’Ambrosio, who arrived at the club via the Mid-Season Draft to make eight appearances in his debut year, said he felt “out of place” at the end of a disastrous 2022 campaign.

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But with a new season on the horizon, the majority of the squad appeared on day one under Scott, including veterans Dyson Heppell and Jake Stringer, who are not expected to return until next month.

“There’s a big turnout here (Monday) and there’s been a big turnout in some practices over the last month,” junior Archie Perkins said.

“I think with the new coach and all the changes, a lot of the older guys were really keen to get stuck into it a bit earlier.

Bombers veteran Jake Stringer did some solo work in the first preseason session. Image: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Essendon coach Brad Scott during today’s session. Image: Michael KleinSource: News Corp Australia

“You always want to start well, but I don’t think we’ll have the mentality to go out and prove people wrong.

Perkins said the players found the changes at the club “exciting” and were ready to start working under Scott.

“I think he made sure everyone in the mindset that we’re ready to get in here, get stuck in and work hard.” I think he’s going to drive really strong standards that I think we need as a group,” he said.

“We players didn’t read too much into that (fitness) comment – pre-season is tough for everyone, no matter what team you are. I think every pre-season you come in expecting to work hard and be challenging.

“At times we might have felt like we weren’t sure where we were going (in 2022) … but Brad was really clear that it’s very development-focused and a really strong path to follow.”

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D’Ambrosio said he was determined to improve his fitness by 2023.

“I think the consensus at the end of last season was that we would come back really fit and ready to play really anywhere,” he said.

“I’m open to playing anywhere — wherever Brad needs me.

“I think I needed the preseason. I felt I was heading towards the back of games, especially at AFL level I felt a bit out of place.

“So I think the whole pre-season will kick me up and hopefully get a few more games in next year.

The Bombers were rocked by critics after the review was published, with Fox Footy’s David King shocked the players had to undergo a check-up to be told they were not fit enough.

Essendon players warm up before training. Image: Darrian TraynorSource: Getty Images

“If you can’t achieve the right standards in training then you can’t succeed,” he told SEN last month.

“I can’t believe it was reviewed to get this kind of feedback.

“If you’re a senior Essendon football club player, you know that. How is it possible that you did not advance the course of training standards during this period?

“What hope did Ben Rutten have?”

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