- from afl.com.au
ESSENDON coach John Worsfold is unconcerned if he hasn't extended his contract by the start of next season as he enters the third and final year of his deal with the club.
The West Coast premiership coach steered the Bombers back into the finals last season having finished on the bottom of the ladder in his first season in charge – when the club was rocked by a group of its senior players missing the year through anti-doping suspensions.
Worsfold signed on with the Bombers at the end of 2015 following the departure of club great James Hird, but said he would not be worried by entering 2018 without any surety on his future beyond the end of that season.
"It's not a priority for me. I'm more than comfortable where everything sits. There's no timeline on it, other than we will see how things are tracking early in the new year, maybe February or March and see where we're sitting," he said on Tuesday.
"I've been in the last year of my contract several times over the course of my career and it's never really been an issue for me at all. It may be an issue if we lose the first 10 games, and maybe before that, but I'm happy to let it run its course in that regard.
"I'm not sitting here saying 'Let's get it done as soon as possible'. Let's just have the conversation when things settle into the new year."
Expectations are high for the Bombers to improve on their elimination final exit this year, when they were bundled out by a dominant Sydney outfit at the SCG.
However, the Bombers made a conscious decision to change tack in the off-season and become more aggressive during the NAB AFL Trade Period, landing a trio of recruits – Jake Stringer from the Bulldogs, Devon Smith via Greater Western Sydney, and ex-Gold Coast speedster Adam Saad.
"We identified that trading wise we were keen to see if we could use that period better than we have in the past to improve our squad," Worsfold said.
The club announced the new trio's jumper numbers on Tuesday night with Smith to don No.5, Stringer No.25 and Saad to stay in No.42 after wearing that number in 48 games for the Suns.
The arrival of the new Bombers, without the club losing any players in return, has added to the excitement around Essendon ahead of next year but Worsfold didn't put a benchmark on what would be considered a successful 2018 campaign.
"Our aim is to improve and be a better team. The competition is evening up more than ever so we need to be a fair bit better to climb the ladder," he said.
"We're not expecting any teams above us to see the wheels fall off. We're in a batch of teams that are all pretty hungry to go better next year and everyone's put in the work through the trade and the draft to be better.
"We're right in that mix, and we know we have to improve a lot to take the next step up the ladder and win finals."
The coach predicted Stringer could play up to "50 per cent" of his game time in the midfield if things go to plan over his pre-season, and denied his group of on-ballers, including Zach Merrett, Dyson Heppell, Darcy Parish and Andrew McGrath, would be too small to match it with the competition's best engine rooms.
"Having really top-line big midfielders, or at least one of them, is handy, but it's not a pre-requisite to be successful. You don't have to have one," he said. "I think we've got a good blend."
The Bombers conceded on average 92 points a game last year, placing them in the worst six clubs for average scores against.
Worsfold acknowledged it is a key area they must address if they are to challenge for a place higher on the ladder, but looks unlikely to turn to All Australian defender-turned goalkicker Cale Hooker as the answer.
The Bombers still plan, at this stage, to use Hooker in attack despite the introduction of Stringer into their forward mix.
"I still see that we can defend a lot better as a group without Cale having to go back," Worsfold said. "We're playing him as a forward."