Calm down, Mick.
Former Essendon captain Tim Watson has rubbished ex-Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse’s claim that the Bombers are bolters to win the 2022 AFL premiership.
On the weekend, Malthouse suggested that Essendon were capable of securing its first flag in 22 years this year – despite the Bombers not winning a finals match since they defeated Melbourne in the 2004 elimination final, more than 6300 days ago.
Watch every 2022 AFL Pre-Season match Live & Ad-Break Free During Play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now.
Essendon finished eighth on the 2021 AFL ladder, but were toppled by eventual finalists the Western Bulldogs in their elimination final.
Malthouse, who is a three-time premiership coach, was impressed with what he saw from Ben Rutten in his first year as Essendon mentor, and tipped the Bombers to go all the way this winter.
But Watson politely disagreed.
Speaking to SEN Breakfast on Wednesday morning, Watson pointed out that Essendon’s forward is heavily undermanned – Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti and Jake Stringer are still working their way back from setbacks, while Cale Hooker has retired from the game.
“I couldn’t believe it on the weekend when Mick Malthouse said Essendon would win the flag this year because they’ve got some real gaps in their game at the moment,” he explained.
“One of those is their forward line. I don’t agree with his prediction. My concern at this stage is McDonald-Tipungwuti, he’s still their best small forward.
“Then you’ve got Jake Stringer who at the moment has a problem with his groin. Those groin problems, they don’t necessarily go away without a long break.
“If they try and manage him and that means he doesn’t train a lot, whatever it might be, you’ve got your two most dangerous forwards possibly are going to have interrupted seasons.
“I don’t think they’ve got the players necessarily to cover those.
“I think their midfield is really good, their defence is good. They’re good, but they need the other players so I’m not as bullish as some other people are.”
McDonald-Tipungwuti, who stepped away from the Bombers over the summer for mental health reasons, is not expected to feature in the opening few rounds of the 2022 premiership.
“He’s got a lot of work to do,” Watson added.
“Talking to people at the club when I was out there last week, he still has a lot of work to do both physically and mentally. Gee they need him.”
Meanwhile, Dyson Heppell will captain Essendon for a sixth-straight year in 2022 at the head of a streamlined Bombers leadership group.
Essendon will face St Kilda at Marvel Stadium on Saturday evening, with the first bounce scheduled for 7.10pm AEDT.