Essendon coach John Worsfold has hit back at criticism of Jake Stringer after the Bombers star's physique was questioned during Friday night's win over Collingwood.
Veteran commentators Bruce McAvaney and Brian Taylor were accused of body-shaming Stringer during Channel Seven's telecast of the match at the MCG.
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McAvaney and Taylor remarked that Stringer seemed to have added noticeable weight, suggesting the former Western Bulldog had problems with conditioning.
“He looks big to me,” McAvaney said.
“He doesn’t look as fit as I’ve seen him look. He’s big through the backside, he’s big through the legs. And the tummy as well. And yet, he’s kicked two goals.
“He’s done everything right, but he looks big doesn’t he.”
Taylor added to McAvaney’s comments, suggesting Stringer needed to be around teammates when training, otherwise he risked losing discipline.
“I reckon he’s one of the guys that needs to be with the group, under the pressure of training with the group, I reckon, to get the absolute best out of his body,” Taylor said.
“I personally believe he needs to train with the group.
“Now with the situation we’ve had over the last few months, it’s been hard for him to find quality time with the group.
“I know other players have done it, but he needs a little bit more coaching than others.”
Worsfold has taken exception to the comments about Stringer and insists that different body shapes should be celebrated, not scrutinised.
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“I don’t have an issue with his body shape, no,” Worsfold said when asked about the issue on Chanel Nine’s Footy Classified.
“We’re all built differently. We’ve got some little fellas running around, we’ve got our big guys.
“We’ve always celebrated that the game of AFL allows for all sizes and all shapes to play a role within our game.
“Jake’s got a role to play within our club and within the team and he’s been performing that role really well for us so far this year.
“He has a different body shape and again I think we should celebrate that. We’ll assess him on his output and how he performs for the team, but also I would like to add that he had an outstanding pre-season where he worked extremely hard.
“We all got affected by a massive downtime lay-off with the COVID strike but other than that Jake works extremely hard to get himself in the best nick to play his role for us."
Worsfold said of bigger concern for the Bombers is the ankle injury that Stringer suffered late on in the win over the Pies.
It could rule the Bombers' best goal-kicker out of action for as many as three months.
“We’re so disappointed with his injury on the weekend. Our absolute focus, as is Jakes’s, is to recover from his surgery and be available, ready to play with the team again as soon as possible.”
The Bombers are currently fifth on the AFL ladder after three wins in their first four matches.