Essendon legend Matthew Lloyd blasts players for ‘not telling the whole truth’ when they backed Ben Rutten just before he was sacked – as moment ex-coach started to lose his squad is pinpointed
Bombers legend Matthew Lloyd has called for the struggling club’s players to be held accountable after a disastrous 2022 season that saw coach Ben Rutten sacked on the weekend – and accused them of hiding the truth when they publicly backed their ex-boss.
The Essendon mentor was shown the door with a year left to go on his contract and Lloyd said the players need to own their fair share of the blame for their horrendous AFL season.
Asked whether the players were ‘disingenuous’ when they backed Rutten in the lead-up to his sacking, Lloyd gave Footy Classified a blunt ‘yes’.
Ben Rutten and the playing group trudge off after another loss in an AFL season to forget
Rutten speaks with Essendon legend Ken Fraser and announcing his departure to media
‘The playing group were very disappointing, so they shouldn’t get off scot-free on anything,’ he said.
‘I think the week was more about how poorly Ben was handled and not about how the team performed and how Ben coached.
‘I think people felt sorry for him (Rutten) and looked past the performance of the Essendon players which needs to be looked at.’
While the playing group has publicly supported Rutten, Footy Classified panellist and veteran reported Caroline Wilson said the coach had effectively sealed his fate prior to the last round of the season.
Former Bombers great Matthew Lloyd believes the playing group needs to take accountability
Veteran ruckman Tom Bellchambers has had an injuy-punctuated year and ultimately announced his retirement from the AFL.
He was fit and available for the final round, but Rutten did not pick him for a farewell match despite the game against Melbourne effectively being a dead rubber.
‘I think [Rutten] had some players and he didn’t have others, and the loudest voices were the ones he didn’t have,’ she said on Footy Classified.
‘He started to lose the players with that Bellchambers decision in the first week of his unofficial coaching.
‘He was up against it from the start with the factions.’
Dylan Shiel of the Bombers celebrates the win with Tom Bellchambers during the round three AFL match between the Melbourne Demons and Essendon at the Melbourne Cricket Ground
On AFL 360 veteran analysts Gerard Whately said the coaching position was the least of Essendon’s worries and appointing a new mentor would not solve their deep-seated issues.
‘How does the deep-seated disunity get resolved? Because some of this is ancient. They’re so installed in the coteries and the board and the football department and there evidently is undermining that goes on,’ he said.
‘It’s interesting who the next coach is going to be. It’s not even vaguely the main thing to solve at Essendon at the moment.’
Nic Martin of the Bombers looks dejected after a loss during the 2022 AFL Round 22 match between the Essendon Bombers and the Port Adelaide Power at Marvel Stadium
Co-host Mark Robinson agreed and said the players needed to take responsibility for not following the game plan that led to their demise.
‘Ben Rutten and [assistant coach] Blake Caracella brought in a game plan – and all year the game plan has been under question … All year people have said ‘you can’t defend’,’ Robinson told AFL 360.
‘And then the players, for goodness sake, the players came out on the weekend and said ‘oh you treated him badly, we were 100 per cent supportive of Ben Butten’ – then play for him.
‘That is just crap that ‘we’re right behind him’ – please. They changed the game plan, the players said during the second half of the year ‘we’re not playing this game plan, we’ve got to change it’ … and then the players came out and said ‘poor old Ben’.’