The Essendon Football Club saw Joe Daniher, Orazio Fantasia, Conor McKenna and Adam Saad walk out the Tullamarine doors last year.
Daniher, Fantasia and McKenna all left for reasons supported by the club, while the Saad situation provides plenty of intrigue after it was initially reported that he was unhappy in red and black, bringing into question the culture of the Bombers.
First-year stand-alone coach Ben Rutten says he is content with the exits of Daniher, Fantasia and McKenna but admits that Saad’s defection to Carlton was disappointing.
“We’ve got to treat all of them individually,” he said on SEN Breakfast.
“McKenna is a really unique one. His reason to go back to Ireland we can completely understand. We appreciate all the service he gave over a period of time.
“Joey Daniher has been much talked about along with Fantasia. I think it was as much as anything about Fantasia getting back home with his family, and Joey’s had a really good couple of years here as well.
“All those guys need to be treated differently and we need to understand all the nuances around those decisions.
“‘Saady’ as well. That was a bit more of a disappointing one for us.”
The departure of four key senior players does, however, bring with it a great chance for the Bombers to blood some newly-arrived replacements, as Rutten pointed out.
“What it has done, it’s also given us an opportunity to strengthen our list in other ways,” he added.
“We’ve had in the off-season the trade period. To be able to bring in Jye Caldwell, Peter Wright, (Nick) Hind as well, who were all guys desperate to come to the footy club.
“I was really pleased about that. From watching those guys over the summer it’s been really pleasing what they’ve added to our group.
“It also gave us the opportunity to go to the draft in what was a compromised draft due to the younger guys not having played a lot last season. We’ve picked up (Archie) Perkins, (Nik) Cox and (Zach) Reid, which I’ve got no doubt are going to be generational type players for us at the footy club.
“Yes, it’s disappointing to lose players off your list, but it doesn’t come without opportunity and some real excitement for us moving forward.”
Asked if he was satisfied with the culture of the club and understanding why the aforementioned players left, he replied: “Absolutely.”
“We, like any team that doesn’t win the premiership, we’re looking at opportunities for us to get better and I think we’re really clear on where we’re at as a footy club and what we need to do to improve.
“I feel like the harmony and the cohesion of our group at the moment is fantastic and we’re enjoying being back at The Hangar and being able to train all together again.
“It’s something that we really missed last season and probably more so than we realised at the time.”
Daniher spoke over the weekend on new Lions teammate Mitch Robinson’s Rip Through It podcast, explaining his side of the story and how his shift to Brisbane came about.
The Dons are preparing for their AAMI Community Series match against Geelong on March 6 before taking on Hawthorn in their season opener at Marvel Stadium on March 20.