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Parish believes McKay can be game-changer for Bombers

3 minute read

Essendon midfielder Darcy Parish is confident key recruit Ben McKay can be a game-changer for the Bombers in 2024.

DARCY PARISH. Picture: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Essendon midfielder Darcy Parish is expecting to owe Ben McKay a "couple of beers" for the work the key recruit will perform in defence for the Bombers.

Parish met his new teammate for the first time on Monday as Essendon launched a new major co-partner, Dutton Automotive.

Free agent McKay was the headline acquisition of Essendon's productive trade period, alongside Jade Gresham (St Kilda), Xavier Duursma (Port Adelaide) and Todd Goldstein (North Melbourne).

The former North Melbourne defender is a towering presence, standing at 202 cm and weighing 104 kg.

"We've probably lacked someone of his size and calibre the last couple of years so he's going to fit straight into our backline along with so many good players we've got down there as well," Parish said of McKay.

"It's going to be great to see him intercepting balls.

"He will probably help us out a fair bit. I'll owe him a couple beers at the end of next season."

McKay believes Essendon's defence can become a strength for them as he joins the likes of Jordan Ridley, Mason Redman and Jayden Laverde down back.

"I think the flexibility and the height down there can be something we can really use, and obviously Andy (McGrath) and those guys running off (half-back) as well," the 25-year-old said.

"It's a nice blend of height and running."

Essendon's first-to-four year players returned to training on Monday with coach Brad Scott's message at the end of last season still ringing in their ears.

After the Bombers' 2023 campaign faltered badly during the final eight weeks, Scott pleaded with the group to take "extraordinary measures" to compete with the best teams.

"There's a difference between training hard, and I think everyone trains hard, to what an AFL lifestyle looks like," Scott said after Essendon's round 24 thumping by premiers Collingwood.

"We need a bigger core group of leaders who can set the example."

A number of Bombers players embarked on a trip to Arizona for a high altitude training camp, at their own expense, during the off-season.

Asked if the Bombers had taken notice of Scott's assessment, Paris said: "I bloody hope so."

"You'd want to come back in good nick, you get found out pretty quick if you don't," he said.

"If you're not ready, you're going to be playing a lot of catch up, and we're not waiting for anyone to catch up."

McKay was impressed by Scott's pitch and the club's determination to bridge the gap with the AFL's best.

Essendon will go into next season still searching for their first finals win since 2004.

"Their work ethic has been really strong. I can only go off a small portion size but from what I've noticed so far, even the staff members as well and how diligent they are about wanting success for the club," McKay said.