Essendon is being torn apart by AFL and sporting experts and pundits after a tumultuous week ended in the sacking of coach Ben Rutten.
The Bombers announced the immediate exit of the two-year head coach on Sunday, less than 24 hours after their season ended with a big loss against Richmond.
The news capped what was undoubtedly one of the most embarrassing weeks for an AFL club in recent memory.
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After horror losses to the Giants and Power, it was reported on Monday that Rutten was likely to be axed before round 23.
That didn’t eventuate, although club hierarchy then engaged in a public chase of free agent coach Alastair Clarkson, who had been courted by the Giants and Kangaroos for a number of weeks prior.
While he entertained Essendon for a couple of days, Clarkson on Friday revealed he never seriously considered joining the club because he felt he hadn’t done the due diligence in pursuing him to replace Rutten.
The news that Clarkson had snubbed Essendon for North Melbourne was followed by a shambolic press conference on Friday by Bombers president David Barham, who sparred with the media but conceded Rutten had been “hurt” by the Clarkson saga.
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Following Saturday’s loss, Rutten was visibly upset in the sheds, and told journalists “I probably think I deserve better” than how he had been treated by his club.
In another press conference on Sunday, Barham said the club wants to find an “experienced” head coach but could offer no examples or speculate on any who might be available to pursue.
Bombers legend defends coach sacking
“Who would take that job?” AFL great Wayne Carey asked about Triple M radio in the wake of the Rutten news.
“You’ve got a guy (Rutten) that’s new in the job, second year, took them to finals in the first year. They have had a poor year, but two years into his coaching career and they just do that to him. The treatment of him.
“If you’re a young coach coming in … you’d be sitting there going ‘why would I take this job?’.”
While Rutten is the man who’s been sacked, the majority of the AFL world is turning the blowtorch on those higher up the chain at Essendon.
The Bombers have not won a finals game since 2004, and success-starved fans are in danger of rioting after the events of the past week.
“The people in power to make football decisions, they need to leave,” AFL coaching great Ross Lyon said.
“If I had been a part of that (internal) report and then they did what they did, I’d just pack up and go … you’ve clearly made poor decisions.”
The chaos at Essendon has transcended AFL and caught the attention of the wider Australian sporting community.
Tennis great Todd Woodbridge was dumbstruck to see Rutten front up on Friday and Saturday after being treated like he was by Barham and others.
“I can’t understand how you can throw your coach under the bus like that, then expect him to turn up and deliver in the way that he did,” Woodbridge told Nine’s Sports Sunday.
“Ben was amazing, the attitude he took into this last match.”
Bombers ‘threw’ Rutten ‘under the bus’
While most AFL pundits are taking aim at Barham and the board, Essendon great Matthew Lloyd holds a different point of view.
He is fed up with the lack of success at the club, and believes the Bombers must do whatever necessary to make it happen.
He bristled at the suggestion Barham could be overthrown and kicked out of the flesh.
“Can I ask you who would be challenging him (for the presidency)?” Lloyd queried on Nine’s AFL Footy Show.
“He didn’t have a great press conference, he didn’t handle Ben Rutten well enough. But to me he’s standing up for change that needs to happen at the football club.
“If he (stands down) who’s going to replace David Barham?”
Barham said the search for a new coach will begin immediately, but did not put a timeframe on the process.
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