‘Won’t cajole, manipulate’: Essendon won’t put pressure on free agent Parish

Essendon coach Brad Scott has revealed that the Bombers will take a hands-off approach to the free agency of playmaker Darcy Parish, giving the star midfield space to make his decision rather than trying to force him to remain.

Scott said the club wouldn’t get a good outcome by cajoling and pressuring Parish to re-sign – he is a restricted free agent. Rather, he said Essendon’s approach would be to sell Parish a vision of the club’s future.

“This is exactly the way free agency should work,” Scott told The Age, in an interview before round one. “Darcy Parish has given fantastic service to Essendon, been a really good player for us. You know, we’ve got to hold up our end of the bargain.

Darcy Parish.Credit:Getty Images

“My responsibility – my only responsibility in terms of Darcy’s free agency status – is to show the vision, show the plan, show him what we’re building in the football department.

“Then, you know, leave him to explore his right, which is does he want to explore free agency or does he want to stay at Essendon?

“We could cajole and manipulate and try and force Darcy to stay. But we don’t get a good outcome that way anyway.

“So it will be creating the environment that Darce says, ‘This is the place I want to be’.”

Scott’s view – that the onus was on the club to present a case to Parish and that he had every right to explore his options – is consistent with how the new coach viewed free agency at North Melbourne, who did not have the same big club cachet, but also did not lose players, as the Bombers have – most notably in 2020 when Joe Daniher and Adam Saad walked out in the trade period.

Scott said he had been surprised by the number of players who had been keen to explore coming to Essendon, in what was clearly referring to the struggles that the Bombers have endured lately.

“The thing we want to do at Essendon is create a world-class football program, so players look at it and say, you know, I think I can be the best player I can be at Essendon,” said Scott, when asked if the Bombers would follow a similar free agency path to the one adopted when he was coaching North.

“If we can create that, you know I think we’ll be able to present a pretty compelling argument to just about any free agent.

“But managers and players still pick up the phone ringing you – you know, I want to talk to you about coming to play for you. That was a shock to me.”

New Essendon skipper Zach Merrett considered his options and examined Essendon’s set-up closely, as Scott suggested for Parish – Carlton, Collingwood and Port Adelaide were among the suitors – before signing a six-year deal with the Dons in 2021.

Scott tried unsuccessfully to persuade Irishman Conor McKenna to return to Essendon after he went home to Ireland, but was more successful, in concert with the football department, in persuading Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti to return after the livewire forward’s retirement before last year.

Scott said that Essendon also had needed to be convinced the forward was committed.

“It wasn’t just, ‘Hey ‘Walla’ [McDonald-Tipungwuti], we want you back under any circumstances’. It was, he had to convince all of us that he was willing to do the work. We talked to him very plainly about how hard it was going to be and how far back he was coming from.

“Very early on it became clear that he was committed to doing what was required, but he’s still got a long way to go.”

Scott said “Walla” had not missed a training session. “In terms of holding up his end of the bargain, he’s done that and more. He’s giving himself a chance.”

On Parish’s role, Scott said playing to his ball-winning strength – as the new coach intends – and having a strong defensive game could co-exist.

“Darcy’s got you know elite footwork, he’s really agile – and Zach Merrett’s in this category too – there’s no reason why Darcy can’t become a really good defensive midfielder.

“Zach and Darce will be charged with the responsibility of leading our midfield and that’s all phases. But that being said, yes he’s an elite ball hunter. So it makes sense to have him hunting the ball as often as possible.“

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