AFL captains' snub to put fire in Bomber bellies
Ruled out as finals contenders by the other 17 AFL captains, Essendon will use the snub as motivation to prove their rivals wrong.
At the AFL captains day, each club skipper was asked to nominate seven other clubs who they believed could make the top eight.
Bombers ruckman Sam Draper admitted it made for tough reading seeing Essendon left off the list altogether, along with Hawthorn, West Coast and North Melbourne.
"Look, I obviously wasn't happy to see that," Draper told reporters on Friday.
"But for our group, and for me in particular, it puts a bit of fire in the belly and makes you want to prove people wrong.
"So we're not here just to take part, we're here to go far into finals and go well."
Draper was confident Essendon under new coach Brad Scott was putting together a midfield group, headlined by Zach Merrett and Darcy Parish, that could genuinely make a premiership tilt in years to come.
"We've got a really diverse group there. They've got a lot of strengths," he said.
"We put it all together, I think we could be really dangerous. We've seen patches of it. We're just striving for some more consistency.
Key to any success will be Draper's ongoing development.
Now 24 and with 43 games under his belt, the ruckman is ready to step up.
"Last year was really important for me to play all 22 games and get some consistency on the field," he said.
"Last year was a good stepping stone. I'm ready to go to the next level this year.
"Hopefully I can get some consistent performances in and play some dominant footy."
Draper hopes the club's new manager of Indigenous player development, classy former ruckman Paddy Ryder, can also lend a helpful ear from time to time.
"I'm not sure how much time he'll spend in the footy department, but even little chats here and there would be great," he said.
"He's someone I've looked up to for a long time. Some of his centre-bounce work is a work of art."
The Bombers get their season under way against Hawthorn next Sunday.
Veteran Jake Stringer (hamstring) headlines a list of players, including Dyson Heppell, Jye Caldwell, Kyle Langford and Matt Guelfi, attempting to prove their fitness after injury issues.
Draper conceded round one could come too soon for Stringer but backed the enigmatic forward to feature early in the season.
"Jake is obviously a really important player for us," he said.
"So I think it will be important to think of the long season, not just put it all on round one."