Essendon Coach John Worsfold says the newly re-signed Conor McKenna shapes as a figure in how the team wants to transition out of defence in the coming years.
McKenna has signed a new deal that will see him remain with the Club until at least the end of 2021.
His signature comes after the 21 year old’s best season at AFL level.
McKenna played 19 games and averaged 17 possessions per match (up from 14 in 2016). He also led the Club for running bounces (fifth overall in the competition) highlighting his willingness to provide run from defence.
“Conor has made a huge commitment to re-sign for four more years,” Worsfold told The Footy Panel.
“We’re rapt, we get to see his development continue.
“He’s got a busy off-season – he’s going to represent Ireland in the International Rules series, which will be wonderful for him.
“He’s a player that we think is going to be a key plank of the style of footy we want to play coming off half back.”
McKenna played 14 senior games in his first two seasons after initially being developed as a forward.
Ironically his most prolific season in front of goals came this year when he booted five goals from defence.
He averaged career-best numbers in key areas, with 16.9 disposals at 76 per cent efficiency, 4.1 intercept possessions, 3.9 score involvements, 2.9 rebound 50s and 334.1 metres gained.
“It would be fair to say a lot of Essendon supporters would be happy now, whereas if we’d announced this 18 weeks ago they would have been asking the question,” Worsfold said.
“We see kids when they’re 18,19, 20 (years of age) that are battling but become great players.
“We saw enough in Conor last year to say ‘we think if he’s committed and works hard he’s going to develop into a very good player’.
“When people were only seeing his on-field performance as a real rookie, and not playing like a veteran, they get a bit frustrated but we could see the signs that he was going to pick it up very quickly and we saw that throughout the year.”
Source: Essendon FC’s website