Essendon 2015 List Review – Part 1: Defenders

As Essendon’s disastrous 2015 season comes to a close in 3 weeks and as a new coach is set to come in next year I thought I would look at the entire list of the Bombers and discuss what may happen to each player, whether they stay, leave or retire. It will be split into four parts, the first three part will be looking at players from the Defence, Midfield and Forward lines. The final part will be about who Essendon may go after in the trade period and what type of players they need to get from the draft.

The first part will be about the Essendon defence. The Bombers defence have had a solid year (as they have had to do a lot of defending considering how much the ball has been in there.) Also in the last few weeks they have become victim to the lack of pressure up the ground. The stands out players in defence have been Michael Hurley, Michael Hibberd and Mark Baguley. Cale Hooker again showed early this year why he was seen as a premier defender in the competition before being moved up forward.


Michael Hibberd

Hibberd has had a solid year for the Bombers in defence as a running half-back averaging 22 disposals* this year. He also has had the ability to put the clamps on opposing teams small forwards. He is clearly in the best 22 for the Bombers as he has become an integral part of the Bombers defence and line up.

STAY – Will stay for next year and onwards as he is contracted until 2017.


Mark Baguley

Like Hibberd has had a solid year and has been a consistent performer for the Bombers in defence, as a lockdown defender. He has done his job each and every week on the opposition small forwards and because of this he will finish high in the Best and Fairest.

STAY – He is out of contract at the end of this year and it’s been reported he is negotiating for a 2 or 3 year deal. Needs to stay and I believe will stay as he has become an important player in the backline.


Courtney Dempsey

Has had a disappointing year, played 11 games* this season and he has been too inconsistent when he has played. For the talent he has had his last few years have disappointing for the club.

GO – Dempsey is out of contract and an unrestricted free agent. I believe he will leave the club at the end of this year, whether via free agency or a Bombers delisting. No spot for him in the Essendon defence and with the Bombers looking to regenerate their list, he needs to be replaced by a younger player.


Tayte Pears

Pears has had another year interrupted through injury and Round 20 against the Crows was his first game for the Bombers since 2013. Even when he got fit in the middle of the year he struggled to find a spot in the Bombers defence, as there was Hurley, Hooker (when back), Steinberg and Gwilt taking up the tall defender roles.

GO – Pears is out of contract and a unrestricted free agent, so if he leaves the Bombers will get nothing for him. I think he will leave as he is too injury prone and has been on the list since 2008 and has only managed 69 games in the process. Will struggle to find a spot if he stays as others are being preferred over him.


Michael Hurley

Hurley, in all the thrashings and poor performances, has been one of the few to stand up every week and perform well. Has had an outstanding year in defence, would have come close to winning the Best and Fairest but has missed the last three games to injury. He will come close to being in the All Australian side as a Full Back or Centre Half Back.

STAY – The defence is built around him at Full Back, contracted and not going anywhere.


Alex Browne

Like Tayte Pears, he also been cruelled by injury throughout his career and this season. Has come back from two knee reconstructions and this has been a key factor of why he has only been able to manage 11 games* since 2011. Browne has managed the 3 games to this point of the season, so hasn’t got a full run of it. Like Pears, through injury and form has fallen behind Hurley, Hooker (when back), Steinberg and Gwilt in the pecking order.

STAY – Is uncontracted at the end of the year. I think he will stay as he needs to be given a chance to have a full year. He is still young and developing and depending on what happens with other players and a full pre-season under his belt will find his way into the senior side long term.


Ariel Steinberg

Steinberg started the year on the rookie list but though good performances in the VFL earlier this season, was promoted onto the senior list. Has played the last 7 games* and has been the preferred option in defence over others. He has been given important roles as the third tall in defence. Only issue is he has been out marked and out muscled on a few occasions. What hasn’t helped him is the lack of pressure in some games up the ground so the ball has been constantly in his area.

STAY – Is another defender out of contract. I think he will stay as he hasn’t had a chance at a full year on the senior list also in his 7 games* he has improved and shown signs of becoming that third tall in defence.


Cale Hooker

Hooker early in the year showed why he was a All- Australian backman from last year with his intercept marking and spoiling. He was then moved forward in Round 13 to help Joe Daniher after Jake Carlisle when down with injury. He has shown his worth in the forward line as a help to Daniher. Like the other Bomber forwards he has been a victim of the Bombers slow play up the ground.

STAY- Contracted and will definitely stay, only discussion around Hooker will be what his position will be under the new coach will do with him as he has been an All –Australian backman  but shown his worth up forward. I think he will stay up forward for the time being as a help for Daniher and Langford, while they develop further.


Dustin Fletcher

Playing his 23 AFL season, Fletcher started off well and even at his age of 40 was still an important member of the Bomber defence. Unfortunately through injury in his 400th game in Round 9 has not been able to play since.

RETIRE – Will retire at the end of the year and will bow out a champion of the club and the AFL.


James Gwilt

Gwilt came to the Bombers this year as a delisted free agent to give the Bombers more depth more depth in their backline. Has definitely been serviceable for the Bombers this year and has played a key role in shoring up the defence when required.

STAY – Out of contract also, I think he will stay. The retirement of Fletcher and the possible departure of Jake Carlisle, means the Bombers defensive stocks will be left too thin if Gwilt is also shown the door. Has the capability to provide an valuable, experienced head in defence.


That ends the defenders part of the Bombers list. While there have been others play in defence, I believe that this part was for core defenders only (not midfielders who start there but end up roaming around the ground.)


To sum up who is going and staying:


Hibberd, Baguley, Hurley, Hooker, Steinberg, Gwilt and Browne


Fletcher, Pears and Dempsey


Thanks for reading, if you agree or disagree with who I think will stay or go please comment below as healthy debate is always good.




* As at the end of round 20, 2015.




About Nick Weidmann

Former Honours student in Journalism at the University of Tasmania and passionate Essendon supporter


  1. Hi Nick,

    I can’t agree with your call on Steinberg. Too small to play a key defender role, and therefore goes behind Hooker and Hurley in the pecking order. Maybe take a Sheedy-esque view of his abilities and see if he can be a defender who runs the lines?

    Would be quite happy to see Hurley, Hooker, Baguley, Gwilt and Hibberd stay.

  2. I agree he has struggled on some occasions on the bigger forwards, I think that his role he plays will be between him and Browne and I think they need both in case one gets injured.

  3. Pears a much better option than Steinberg who has looked out of his depth in the AFL. Gwilt can also go or be a filler for depth (injuries). Gleeson not mentioned here but must stay. I assume you must have him in midfield group.

  4. It is really a toss up between Steinburg and Pears, I went with Steinburg, showed something, Pears hasn’t played enough, I know he’s been injured but when he hasn’t he has struggled to find a spot, Looking at the teams for this weekend both Steinburg and Pears have been dropped so what do we know! Yeah I have, honestly a lot of the young players I don;t know their position, so I’ve just stuck them in the midfield group.

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