Essendon coach John Worsfold has fired back at critics of the “15 seconds of footage” that showed his players laughing during a 66-point loss to Geelong that ended their finals hopes.
Preparing for his second-last game in change before handing over to Ben Rutten in 2021, Worsfold said those who suggested vision of the joke being told by Irving Mosquito in the player huddle was a poor look showed they had a “very narrow focus”.
He also hit back at club great Matthew Lloyd, who has been at the front of the knockers queue, declaring the former star full forward “hadn’t garnered much support” with his comments.
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“We measure the players on performance. I thought their second half, if telling that joke got them up and played the footy they played in the second half, we had more scoring shots and inside-50s than Geelong, then we should have been cracking those gags before the game,” Worsfold said.
“People are going to put perspective on it. Again, it’s a very narrow focus in the context of what players are doing. We can pick on players’ group at any time. We want the AFL to have some characters in the game. But ultimately we get measured on performance.
“Our first half wasn’t good enough. The players having a laugh post that and then going out and performing a lot better, people can read into that how they want. For me, we get measured on our performance. That’s what we want to go on.
“If people want to use facial expressions or other actions as a measure of that, I can’t control that. People don’t know what happened at halftime. They saw 15 seconds of something – there was a lot more that went on at halftime from coaches and from the leadership group with the players. It was very focused, very driven around improving our performance in the second half.”
“I am not sure he garnered any support with those,” Worsold said.
“That’s his job as a commentator, not a journalist as I understand, don’t expect him to make journalistic comments. He is just an opinion maker. He is welcome to do that if that’s the way he feels.”
The Bombers, in 12th spot, have been called a “soulless club” by premiership player Dean Wallis this week having gone more than 5000 days without winning a final.
But Worsfold said this year’s campaign had been derailed by injuries while trying to learn a new game plan in a constricted AFL landscape.
The coach was adamant he would be handing over a “strong group” for Rutten to take charge of.
“There has been a lot of factors that have meant we haven’t got a couple of extra wins that we would have liked this year. But the No.1 thing is to learn from that, learn from why we haven’t been able to get our best team on the park and have maybe six or seven of the players unavailable week to week,” he said on Thursday.
“If we address that and Ben has his best squad available, we have made massive inroads. Ben takes over a team that is 12 months into a new game plan, not Ben having to start from scratch next year, so that is a massive step forward for the footy club.
“We haven’t been able to practise it and train it as much as we would like due to the circumstances this year, but the players have a really strong understanding to what they are working towards.
“The improvement in young players in (Jordan) Ridley and (Andrew) McGrath in new roles this year has been outstanding. I think everyone is really clear in the way the side is starting to shape up and how it’s going to look as the group plays more footy together and matures into what should be a really strong squad going forward. “
Worsfold said forward Joe Daniher would return from a week off against Port Adelaide and gave supporters confidence the key forward may sign a new contract because of his strong relationship with Rutten.