Despite being assured of his place as Essendon coach next season, Ben Rutten is facing renewed speculation he could be replaced after awkward footage of his interaction with players was highlighted.
Amid a mediocre season in which the Bombers have limped to a 7-14 record, club president Paul Brasher quit as club president on Monday and further reports emerged that Essendon was mounting a pursuit of Alastair Clarkson.
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Though the coach was given public assurances by Bombers CEO Xavier Campbell on Monday, footage of defender Nick Hind seemingly going out of his way to avoid Rutten on the bench during their round 20 win over North Melbourne.
The footage, which was highlighted by Kane Cornes on Channel 9's Footy Classified on Monday night, was an awkward look for the coach, particularly in a match the Bombers won handily.
Things have gone from bad to worse since then, with last weekend's 84-point demolition at the hands of Port Adelaide prompting Brasher to step down.
Cornes said he'd never seen a player treat their coach with such disdain.
"I'm not sure I've seen vision of a player treating a coach like this."@kanecornes on the vision that shows how Bomber players have 'checked out' and why Ben Rutten's time appears to be up. #9FootyClassified | Watch on @Channel9 pic.twitter.com/wSVHdIeNJO
— Footy on Nine (@FootyonNine) August 15, 2022
“You ask whether the players have checked out – this is Round 20. I’m not sure I’ve seen vision of a player treating a coach like this,” Cornes observed.
“He doesn’t want to sit next to Ben Rutten, Rutten says no sit here.
“He’s trying to give him some feedback, some positive reinforcement, and the disengagement of Nick Hind on the interchange bench here – he can’t even look at him here.
“The players have clearly checked out and their on-field actions are displaying that.”
The 39-year-old Rutten is nearing the end of his second year as Essendon coach and is contracted for 2023.
But his future in the role could be decided even before the external review, which incoming president David Barham described as a "line in the sand moment" for the 150-year-old club.
Club legend Matthew Lloyd backed the push for Clarkson, who is already weighing up an offer from North Melbourne and has been in talks with GWS.
"He's the best candidate out there," Lloyd told on Sportsday on Monday night.
"Alastair is quite a confronting person ... to me, that is what this football club needs because they've made little minor adjustments but at the end of the day it doesn't get the club anywhere."
The findings of an internal football department review - the second of its kind in three seasons - were presented to the Essendon board two weeks ago.
It has since been decided that an external review is required.
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The Bombers' board has been split this year between giving Rutten more time and making a change.
"That's where I admire David Barham because I think he's pushed and pushed and pushed," Lloyd said.
"Now he's become the president and I think he's one of those ones that's pushing for change and the external review."
Asked if he thinks Rutten will remain in his role beyond this season, Lloyd said: "I don't think he will, no.
"My opinion is, on what I've seen this year, I wouldn't go with Ben Rutten next year."
Essendon have famously not won a final since 2004, having claimed their most recent premiership four years earlier.
Lloyd, the Coleman Medal winner in that premiership season, said he has been "frustrated for years" but has been buoyed by Barham's appointment.
"This is the first time that you think things could seriously change for the better," Lloyd said.
"Obviously you make decisions and you want those decisions to work as a footy club.
"I think Paul Brasher has wanted nothing but the best for the football club.
"He's a good person but what's going on at the moment hasn't worked."
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