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Aussie Rules: Are Essendon true title contenders?

Essendon have made their best start to an AFL campaign in years, leading to suggestions they could be genuine premiership candidates in 2023.

The Bombers are without doubt one of the most well-known and successful football clubs in Australia. They have won 16 VFL/AFL premierships in their history and only Carlton have matched that figure.

However, the huge army of Bombers supporters have been starved of glory for some time. Indeed, their last flag came 23 years ago in 2000.

Since then some of their big rivals, including Hawthorn, Richmond and Collingwood, have all tasted success, so it is no surprise Essendon are desperate to end their drought.

Following an encouraging start to the season, the question now being asked is, are Essendon real title challengers?

Strong start under Scott

Essendon are priced at 23.00 to win the AFL grand final in 2023, and following a strong start to the season, the Bombers faithful would have been starting to dream.

Brad Scott arrived as the club’s new coach in the off-season after they failed to make the top eight under the leadership of Ben Rutten in 2022.

And his methods looked to have made an immediate effect as they won four out of the opening five games to fly high on the ladder.

The only defeat in that run came against St Kilda, who were unbeaten at the time. There were only three goals between the two sides so there was no shame in such a defeat.

Despite the wins, questions were raised about the quality of the sides Essendon were beating. Hawthorn, Gold Coast and GWS are not expected to make the eight this season.

Even so, you can only beat what is put in front of you and Essendon were doing just that.

But it was the win over Melbourne, a genuine flag contender, that really made people stand up and take notice. The Bombers won by 27 points and all of a sudden even the doubters started to turn.

Has the bubble burst?

Unfortunately for Essendon, they were not able to kick on from the Melbourne win and have since lost back-to-back games against Collingwood and Geelong.

Again there is no great shame in losing to a Pies side who are 5.00 to win the grand final, and reigning premiers Geelong, who are also priced the same.

But if you want to have a chance of winning the flag, these are the teams you need to be beating on a regular basis. It is therefore obvious Essendon still have some way to go.

They did impress for long periods against Collingwood on Anzac Day, but the fact they coughed up a healthy lead as the Pies roared back to win late suggests there is work to do.

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Who is up next?

It was a run of fixtures that was always going to test Essendon’s premiership credentials and there are a couple more tough games to come, and both are on the road.

Next up is a trip to the Adelaide Oval, never and easy place to go, to take on Port, before they then head to Brisbane to take on the Lions.

The Bombers really need to respond and show what they are made of. It is early days, but these two games could make or break their season.

Despite slipping down to ninth, they are still only eight points behind Collingwood, who sit top of the pile, and just four behind the four clubs who are all sat on 20 points.

Summary

There is no doubt that Essendon are showing great signs of improvement under Scott, but they are still some way from being premiership contenders.

The last two results say as much and there are a handful of teams better positioned to go on and win the flag.

But there is still a lot to be optimistic about. With Scott in charge and some quality on the list, the Bombers look to have a bright future and can build towards that drought-breaking premiership.

For 2023. breaking back into finals has to be seen as a success and they are priced at 2.10 to finish in the top eight.

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