‘Wouldn’t forgive myself’: Coach’s nerves for star

AFL Rd 11 - Richmond v Essendon
Jordan Ridley was best on ground in a stunning return from 10 months out of the game due to repeat quad injuries. Picture: Dylan Burns / Getty Images

Essendon coach Brad Scott says he wouldn’t have forgiven himself if he pushed Jordan Ridley to return too soon after the defender’s stunning comeback game on Saturday night.

Scott said the Bombers still had major parts of their game to improve and would become more cohesive in defence as Ridley returned from 10 months on the sidelines to lead them to a fourth consecutive victory against Richmond.

The 25-year-old, who re-injured his quad in a pre-season game and in training early last month, won the Yiooken Trophy as best on ground with 31 disposals in the 12-point win.

“He’s been ready for a couple of weeks, but the way he played tonight, you can see why we just needed to make sure he was absolutely right,” Scott said.

“We probably reverse engineered it a little bit – even when he was right, if we brought him back and he got hurt, I’d never forgive myself.

“There are very few players who can have a long lay-off and look like they just haven’t missed a beat, and he’s one of those.”

AFL Rd 11 -  Richmond v Essendon
Essendon star Jordan Ridley accepts the Yiooken Trophy from Michael Long (centre) and Aunty Pam Pedersen as best on ground in the Dreamtime at the ‘G clash. Picture: Morgan Hancock / Getty Images

Scott said he was excited to see Ridley form a partnership with recruit Ben McKay, who was a big aerial presence albeit against an undersized Richmond forward line.

“It was a key part of bringing Ben (McKay) in, that it would solidify our defence and give us different options around that,” he said.

“Outside of (Saturday night), they’ve only played half a practice game together. Zach Reid is another one who’s edging closer … he’s available really, but we’ve just got really careful in terms of his return to play.

“Our backline has been functioning pretty well. McKay has been an important part of that, and Ridley just adds to it.

“We’ve just got to continue to get better. We’ve put ourselves in a good position, I’m not denying that, but I just think we’ve got so much room for improvement still.”

Scott said he was pleased by the composure shown by No. 10 pick Nate Caddy on debut.

The 193cm forward missed two set shots but presented strongly and laid three tackles inside the Bombers’ forward 50.

AFL Rd 11 - Richmond v Essendon
Essendon debutant Nate Caddy was goalless but impressed Brad Scott and Bombers fans with his confidence in front almost 80,000 at the MCG. Picture: Dylan Burns / Getty Images

“It’s a general statement, but I just thought he looked like an AFL player. You have guys come in and maybe get overawed … Dreamtime at the ‘G is a big debut,” Scott said.

“I just love his competitiveness, I love his athleticism. He just looked like an AFL player, and we’re rapt to finally see him at the level.”

“I don’t know what the answer is (whether Harry Jones will replace Caddy), but I hope we have those problems.

“Same with Zach Reid back; same with Sam Draper in the ruck; they are really good problems to have, and problems we didn’t have last year.”

Scott did not believe tall utility Nik Cox had done significant hamstring damage before he was subbed out at quarter time.

“I was watching him during the first quarter testing it along the boundary line … he was running so fast,” Scott said.

“We’ll just get a scan, but he had some, what do they call it now, ‘hamstring awareness?’

‘I never had that, I just ripped them. If he felt it, then we just subbed him out of precaution.”