Essendon great Matthew Lloyd has urged the club to look inwards to fix its culture or risk losing two-time best and fairest winner Zach Merrett in a year's time.
Speaking after both Joe Daniher and Adam Saad requested to leave the club, Lloyd said he expected small forward Orazio Fantasia to announce his intention to leave in the coming days.
Zach Merrett could be out the door next year if Essendon don’t make a change, says club great Matthew Lloyd.Credit:Darrian Traynor
The champion goalkicker admitted the club was nearing "rock bottom" in what has been a dark year in its proud history.
"Rock bottom is the supplements scandal, but in terms of rock bottom as a football club, in terms of pure football, [it is rock bottom]," Lloyd told Nine's Footy Classified.
"I don't think it's rock bottom yet because Fantasia will be the next one. It's only a matter of days before he says, 'I'm out', next.
"This is purely a culture issue of players not being happy, not being content, not being sure of the direction of the club, not feeling like they're going to get success there.
"For such a proud, proud club this is one of the saddest days that I've ever been involved in."
After Essendon's general manager of football Dan Richardson suggested that players were leaving due to not being committed, Lloyd urged the club not to slam players on their way out.
"I think Saad has been extremely committed to that football club, but hasn't been content," he said.
"I think the club has their heads in the sand if they want to shove this back on the players.
"If they want to go down this track and believe that players didn't want to play the role [senior coach] Ben [Rutten] asked them to, there will be a player by the name of Zach Merrett who I believe will say in 12 months time: 'I'm not that content either', so they've got to look far deeper. They have to listen."
According to Lloyd, the player departures have rocked new president Paul Brasher, who has begun an investigation into why the culture at the club has become toxic.
"I think he's made a wonderful start," Lloyd said of Brasher.
"He's asking a lot of questions of a lot of people inside and outside the club. He's hearing a lot of things and he's probably got to get to the bottom of what's real and what's not.
"I don't think he'll sit on his hands in terms of trying to make changes."
While there are questions about Rutten's game plan, Lloyd urged the new coach to put his plan aside and work on building relationships with the players first and foremost.
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