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How Essendon got back in the hunt

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Essendon were happy to pay a big trade price for Dylan Shiel.Credit:AAP

In the post-season of 2017, Essendon underwent a cultural shift that has expedited their recovery and, finally, positioned the reconstructed club on the brink of flag contention for the first time since the early 2000s.

Traditionally, Essendon had been wedded to the philosophy of Kevin Sheedy and Mark Thompson – evident in Bomber's time with Geelong – that you grow your own players, largely via the draft.

Essendon had never traded out of the first round of the national draft until then. Not once since the draft's inception had the Dons entered it without at least one first-round choice, save the years when they were forcibly removed by salary cap rorting (1999) and the drug saga (2013) – and in 2013, they still plucked Zach Merrett and Orazio Fantasia with later choices.

Hawthorn have held only two selections inside the top 20 since 2009, twice trading top-ten picks for Shaun Burgoyne and then Jaeger O'Meara, with Tom Mitchell also acquired from the Swans at bargain rates (pick 14). Last year, the Hawks traded out again for Chad Wingard.

Critics from rival clubs would say the Bombers had not traded picks because they were harder to deal with than the Senate crossbench. Alternatively, one could say they valued their picks too highly to part with them. Whatever the cause, they did not trade in seasoned quality (Brendon Goddard was a free agent).

But 2017 brought a sea change. By then, the Bombers – with clear air – had recognised that there was now a mixed economy, and that, in a liberalised player market, teams could not solely draft and, further, that the........

© Brisbane Times