'Get upstairs': AFL greats fume over footage of Essendon coach

Sam Goodwin
·Sports Editor
·3-min read
Ben Rutten, pictured here sitting on the interchange bench.
Ben Rutten was sitting on the interchange bench rather than in the coaches box. Image: Fox Footy

Essendon coach Ben Rutten has been called out for sitting on the interchange bench rather than in the coaches box during the Bombers' loss to Hawthorn on Saturday night.

Rutten was spotted down at ground level sitting with his players, rather than up in the box as the vast majority of AFL coaches do.

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The Bombers broke the game wide open in the second term and led by 40 points, which might have been reason for Rutten to relax.

However the Hawks stormed back into the contest in the third and went on to snatch an incredible one-point victory.

Discussing Rutten's tactics in the aftermath, AFL greats David King and Leigh Montagna questioned Rutten’s decision to sit on the interchange bench, especially given he didn't seem overly vocal towards his players.

“It’s not the performance. The game was the game. They set up a fantastic lead and this is more specific to the sellers of who you are as a football club and who you are as a coach. I call him Benny Idle,” King said on Fox Footy’s First Crack.

“He sat there and watched the game, he had the best seat in the house, he was a spectator for 40 minutes of footy when the game was sliding.

“Clearly (Tom) Mitchell out of control, they led by 40 points. You go to the bench for a reason, to reinforce behaviour, to encourage, to look players in the eye and eyeball them. I didn’t see him do any of that, I just saw him sitting there and watching the game.

“What is the point of being there? I just don’t understand it.”

Ben Rutten, pictured here speaking with Essendon assistant coach Blake Caracella.
Ben Rutten speaks with Essendon assistant coach Blake Caracella. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

John Worsfold criticised for similar move in 2020

Montagna was astounded that Rutten would opt to sit downstairs given how heavily criticised predecessor John Worsfold was for doing the same in 2020.

“Surely he would’ve heard the noise last year about a lot of Essendon fans critical of John Worsfold for sitting on the bench?” Montagna said.

“Not showing any emotion or really communicating with his players, standing up and yelling out to players on the field. Seeing Ben Rutten do that Round 1, particularly to concede eight goals to one in the third quarter, I was surprised by it.

“How are you controlling the game? How are you actually able to see what is happening clearly to be able to make some moves to stop it, like Tom Mitchell or like the run on that Hawthorn got in the third quarter at ground level?

“You cannot see it at ground level, so he’s relying on his assistant coach. Yet it is his first game in charge. I thought it was a strange look and something we will have to keep an eye on."

King said Rutten should seriously consider where he sits in the second round.

“If I was Ben Rutten I’d get off the bench. If you need to be that calm and watching the game, you’re not helping the players,” he said.

“Get upstairs.”

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