Following the signing of former Lion Sam Michael, the Bombers have finalised their playing list for 2016.
From key position players to inside midfielders, players of all ages and experience levels were targeted before the season opener in a month’s time.
Essendon by the numbers
OUT – 1,422 games (average of 118.5 per player), five best and fairest awards and five All-Australian selections.
IN – 1,059 games (average of 105.9 per player), one best and fairest award, two All-Australian selections and six premiership medallions.
Included in the Bombers’ 10 recruits are two ruckmen, four midfielders, one key forward, one small forward, one key defender and one small defender.
Draft: Pick 6, 2003 Rookie Draft
Former club: Melbourne: 155 games, 2003-2015
The 2010 All-Australian was already working as the Bombers’ ruck coach when he was called upon to share the stoppage duties with Matthew Leuenberger in 2016. The 32-year-old has a commanding presence in the midfield and was one of the best big men in the game not long ago.
Draft: Pick 96, 2012 Rookie Draft
Former club: Brisbane Lions: three games, 2012-2014
Michael became the Bombers 10th and last signing after training with the club and impressing in a recent practice match. The big-bodied ruckman, who can also venture forward, has great aerial ability and will complement the club’s ruck stocks during the year.
Draft: Pick 17, 2001 National Draft
Former club: Geelong: 273 games, 2002-2015
The three-time premiership Cat re-enters the AFL system following retirement at the end of 2015. An All-Australian midfielder, Kelly boasts the most experience of the Bombers’ 10 top-up players and averaged more than 20 disposals per game in his last eight years at the elite level.
Draft: Pick 61, 2005 National Draft
Former club: Geelong: 189 games, 2006-2015
Like his Geelong teammate, the dual premiership Cat comes out of retirement and dons the red sash for 2016. Neat around goals, Stokes is also a proven ball-winner. His experience will be invaluable to his younger teammates.
Draft: Pick 41, 2007 National Draft
Former club: Brisbane Lions: 94 games, 2008-2014
The former Lion returns to Windy Hill following a stint in the same role last pre-season and a best and fairest for the club’s VFL side in 2015. The inside midfielder will ease the workload on the lighter-bodied Essendon on-ballers and is also handy around goals.
Draft: Pick 44, 2009 National Draft
Former club: Richmond: 31 games, 2010-2015
The attacking defender was signed by the club following a best and fairest winning season for Richmond’s VFL side in 2015. Delisted by the Tigers at year’s end, Dea’s AFL career was littered with injuries but a role at half-back beckons in 2016.
Draft: Pick 16, 2006 Rookie Draft (Sydney); Pick 56, 2011 Rookie Draft (Geelong); Delisted unrestricted free agent, 2012 (Hawthorn)
Former club: Sydney: 0 games 2006-2007; Geelong: 4 games, 2011-2012; Hawthorn: 33 games, 2013-2015
Now entering his fourth AFL club, Simpkin has been the ultimate journeyman throughout 37 appearances at the elite level – 20 of which he started or ended with a sub vest. He won a premiership with the Hawks in 2013 and can more than hold his own on the big stage.
Draft: Pick 55, 2002 National Draft (Fremantle); Pick 39, 2005 Rookie Draft (Fremantle)
Former club: Fremantle: 188 games, 2003-2015
The hard-nosed tagger was the Bombers’ first signing following more than a decade with the Dockers. The 2012 Doig Medallist was one of the league’s best stoppers and also knows his way around goals.
Draft: Pick 14, 2008 Rookie Draft
Former club: North Melbourne: 86 games, 2008-2015
The former Kangaroo was forced to prematurely end his AFL career after persistent back injuries riddled his 2015 season. Capable of playing on the league’s best key forwards, a fully fit Grima will be vital for the club’s defensive stocks.
Draft: Pick 39, 2009 National Draft (Hawthorn); Pick 65, 2015 Rookie Draft (Hawthorn)
Former club: Hawthorn: three games, 2010-2015
Due to the powerful Hawthorn forward-line, Grimley lacked opportunities during his six years at Waverley, featuring in three matches in 2013. The athletic tall was deservedly given a second chance following consecutive ‘Frosty’ Miller Medals as the VFL’s leading goalkicker in the past two seasons.