ADAMANT their succession plan is about putting family first, Essendon is confident of achieving a smooth handover when Ben Rutten replaces John Worsfold as senior AFL coach in 2021.
Worsfold will see out the final season of his Essendon contract in 2020 – his fifth at the helm – before returning to Western Australia where his family are based.
The decision to promote the highly-regarded Rutten, who helped deliver Richmond a breakthrough premiership in 2017 before being poached by Essendon for the 2019 campaign, follows months of speculation about Worsfold’s future.
Rumours swirled late in the season that Worsfold would be sacked if his team did not make the finals.
The Bombers scraped through but were smashed by West Coast in their elimination final, matching their only other finals berth under his tenure in 2017.
Worsfold’s family returned to Perth early last year and the 50-year-old said he couldn’t justify remaining apart from them beyond his current term.
“Sometimes I can put too much into my football,” he told reporters on Monday.
“Over my 30 years I’ve been involved in the game, I’ve given up a fair bit and made a lot of sacrifices.
“When you’re a young man and a young footballer, you can do it. You feel like it’s just you. You’re a single man. But my kids are giving up a lot at the moment.
“We’re a close family and as all kids are, they’re in those important phases of their lives and I’m not there as regularly as I’d like to be.”
Chief executive Xavier Campbell said he had been talking openly with Worsfold about his future and a potential succession plan for the past 18 months, adding that the decision had not been driven by their performance this season.
With Fremantle and Adelaide yet to fill their head coaching vacancies for 2020, the Bombers moved decisively to shore up their coaching set-up.
Rutten confirmed he had been approached by the Crows following Don Pyke’s sacking but had affirmed his commitment to Essendon.
He said he was looking forward to tapping into the wisdom Worsfold had accumulated during his 16 seasons as a senior AFL coach.
“To be a senior coach and to have a 12-month period with the most experienced coach in the game at the moment is huge,” Rutten said.
“In terms of best preparing yourself to be a successful coach for the football club and the players, I certainly feel as though I’m in a privileged position.”
Before moving into coaching, Rutten played 229 games for the Crows as an uncompromising fullback.
Campbell said football manager Dan Richardson had identified his former Tigers colleague as the best coach on the market when evaluating options last year.
“He came into the program with Woosh, myself and Dan knowing that he may be a potential candidate but we had to put a lot of work into his development,” Campbell said.
“There’s a level of comfort clearly – Ben’s greatest endorser was John when it came to the point where I was making a recommendation.”
© AAP 2019