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Essendon’s darkest day to get even worse as culture war erupts

Brace yourselves, Essendon fans. The exodus isn’t over yet. After rebounding defender Adam Saad revealed he wants to join Carlton in 2021 and key forward Joe Daniher told the Bombers he’s seeking a contract with Brisbane, Orazio Fantasia may be next to join the exit queue.Club champion Matthew Lloyd said the news of Saad and…

Brace yourselves, Essendon fans. The exodus isn’t over yet.

After rebounding defender Adam Saad revealed he wants to join Carlton in 2021 and key forward Joe Daniher told the Bombers he’s seeking a contract with Brisbane, Orazio Fantasia may be next to join the exit queue.

Club champion Matthew Lloyd said the news of Saad and Daniher made for one of the “saddest days” he has ever seen at Essendon, but the tears will keep coming if Fantasia quits too.

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The goalsneak, who only played five games in 2020 because of injury, reportedly wants to return home to South Australia next season and play for one of the Adelaide clubs. Independent medical testing will be passed on to the Power and Crows and Essendon GM of football Dan Richardson said a request to leave Tullamarine would not come as a shock.

“I know there’s been some discussion about a couple of other players in the media and you’re probably referring to Orazio at this point in time,” Richardson told SEN’s Bob and Andy.

“He hasn’t requested a trade. He has expressed periods of homesickness and he’s certainly got a very close connection family-wise back in Adelaide.

“If there was a request forthcoming for him to want to return there, then I don’t think that would be a surprise, but we’ll cross that bridge when it comes to it.”

Essendon icon Tim Watson told SEN Breakfast “Fantasia is going to leave” as questions remain about other stars such as Michael Hurley and Cale Hooker, who were reportedly upset by the treatment of the retiring Tom Bellchambers.

Zach Merrett is reportedly likely to stay with the Dons next season, but Melbourne great Garry Lyon said the gun midfielder is “disgruntled”.

Essendon hasn’t won a final since 2004 and finished a disappointing 13th this season. Saad had a monster five-year offer on the table to stay, but believes he has more chance of tasting success at Carlton — a club with its own lengthy finals drought.

Daniher, who has played only 15 games in three seasons, is reportedly sick of spending so much time on the sidelines and is hopeful Brisbane will be able to cure his injury woes and reinvigorate his career.

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SHOTS FIRED AS CULTURE WAR ERUPTS

The exodus from Essendon has raised questions about the club’s culture.

Dan Richardson shut down that notion and said coach Ben Rutten, who will officially take over from John Worsfold, is setting high standards where he expects individuals to commit to a team-first ethos.

Richardson tried to downplay the significance of Saad and Daniher jumping ship, saying the club only wants players willing to buy into Rutten’s vision.

“We need players who are fully committed to his vision and where we are taking the club,” Richardson told 3AW’s Sportsday.

“If that means we unsettle, or ruffle a few feathers along the way because we’re asking players to put the team first, then so be it.

“I don’t think we should apologise to anyone, even our fans, if that’s what we are doing.”

Richardson also told SEN’s Bob and Andy part of the reason Saad left is because the Blues tabled a “more compelling” financial offer than what Essendon could muster.

Veteran journalist Caroline Wilson reports Essendon has started leaking negative comments about Saad since he decided to leave, saying she’s been told by Bombers sources the 26-year-old argued with Worsfold because he didn’t want to defend on Lions spearhead Charlie Cameron during a loss to Brisbane earlier this season.

However, Tim Watson and Garry Lyon both called out Essendon’s hypocrisy, questioning why the club would leak concerns about Saad after they tried so hard to convince him to stay.

Watson also denied Saad’s move was motivated by money.

“Essendon fought desperately to keep Saad, so don’t forget that. They fell over themselves to accommodate him and try and keep him,” Watson said.

“So after all Dan Richardson said yesterday, they weren’t trying to push him out the door.

“As much as I know, he did not go for extra money. This decision wasn’t about money.”

Lyon added: “That’s a great point. On Monday, Saad was the best small defender in the competition, desperately needed.

“Saad decides to go (and Essendon says), ‘By the way he was difficult, he wouldn’t play on Charlie Cameron’.”

Matthew Lloyd took aim at his former club as upheaval rages, saying the people in charge should look at themselves instead of trying to blame the players for the situation Essendon finds itself in.

“I think the club has their heads in the sand if they want to shove this back on the players,” Lloyd told Nine’s Footy Classified.

“If they want to go down this track and believe the players don’t want to play the role Ben asked them to, there’ll be a player by the name of Zach Merrett who in 12 months time will say I’m not that content either.”

“I think Saad has been extremely committed to that football club, but hasn’t been content.

“I throw (retiring Irishman) Conor McKenna into this (too). He left the club because he was unhappy in the environment.

“Don’t give me, ‘It’s just about getting around Ben Rutten’s game plan’. This is purely a culture issue of players not being happy, content, not being sure of the direction of the club, not sure if they’re going to get any success there.”

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