AFL 2022: Essendon coach Ben Rutten saw a key switch in his players in electric win over Hawthorn

Russell GouldNCA NewsWire
Essendon coach Ben Rutten liked what he saw against Hawthorn. Mark Stewart.
Camera IconEssendon coach Ben Rutten liked what he saw against Hawthorn. Mark Stewart. Credit: News Corp Australia

The subtle but significant change Essendon coach Ben Rutten saw in his players during last week’s win over Hawthorn could ensure the Bombers roll into more wins in 2022 and keep their slim finals hopes alive.

Changes are looming for the clash with Sydney at the SCG on Saturday after the club was hit with an illness tsunami last week and players, including best and fairest Jordan Ridley, are set to return.

The Bombers, with a 2-6 record this season, are in the same position as in 2021, after which Rutten’s team won nine of its next 15 games to make the finals.

And Rutten said he saw something in the come-from-behind win over the Hawks, in which Essendon kicked eight last-quarter goals to one, that gave him the confidence that beyond just winning momentum, his players may have turned an important corner.

“It’s some of the things I have been talking about, our ability to stick at what we are doing longer, ability to execute,” he said.

“Against the Bulldogs (the previous week) some mistakes we made seemed to deflate the group.

“There were plenty of those opportunities against Hawthorn where momentum went against us, a decision went against is, we made errors, but I thought the ability of the guys to maintain their focus, get back to the job and thinking about what to do next instead of dwelling on the past or thinking too far ahead, that’s the challenge we have been working on.

“That last 10 minutes showed a real disciplined approach to be able to stick to our game for longer. Sometimes the rewards are going to come in the last five minutes or two minutes.

“We have to be able to endure a game like that, unsure when it might click over for us.”

All of Essendon’s past five clashes with the Swans have been won or lost by 10 points or less, with the combined margin in those matches, of which the Bombers have won three, just 31 points.

Rutten dismissed a suggestion the Swans had lost their “SCG aura”, knowing the Swans, coming off two losses in a row, would return to the hard, contested footy that has been their hallmark for so long.

A win is crucial for the Bombers to keep their slim hopes of a finals return alive but also to reward long-serving captain Dyson Heppell in his 200th game.

4th quarter
Camera IconEssendon captain Dyson Heppell (right) is much loved by his teammates. Michael Klein Credit: News Corp Australia

Rutten said, despite knockers outside the club, Heppell “commands respect” at the Bombers.

“His attitude, the way he commands respect, and not through being a dominant figure but through his level of care, that’s one of the things that is really important to us,” Rutten said.,

“The ability to acknowledge and celebrate the uniqueness in everyone no matter what their imperfections are.

“Dyson’s ability to get around guys no matter if you are the boot studder or the best player in the team, that’s what makes him such a loved player within our four walls.”

 

Originally published as AFL 2022: Essendon coach Ben Rutten saw a key switch in his players in electric win over Hawthorn

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