To move forward, Essendon might have to move on two big names

Long before the final siren in Perth, the outcome was clear. West Coast were cruising to a final home win of the year to set up another run at the flag. Essendon, undermanned, grimly digging in, trying to stay close, before being blown away by the reigning premiers.

The Bombers fly back to Melbourne still searching for a first finals win since 2004.

For John Worsfold, revered son of the west, it was a flat ending to a season that has both delighted and dispirited those of a red and black persuasion in equal measure. The thrilling run of nailbiting victories through June and July that gave way to a miserable August that saw the Dons lose three from four and with it any realistic hope of a home final and an elusive September victory.

For the Bombers, the time has come for some serious reflection on where the club is going, and what they stand for. And whether 'Woosha' is the man to take them forward, because make no mistake, if Essendon are going to truly move forward, then the whole organisation - and its membership - need to stop looking back.

Stop looking back at the grainy 4:3 vision of triumphs past. Of Sheedy and Madden. Of Hird and Lloyd. Of the supplements saga that still sits festering in the background; the caveat used when discussing the past few years. And stop looking back at the success of the Eagles over a decade ago, that put Worsfold into the top echelon of coaches.

The reality is, the game has changed. Worsfold's last six seasons in the west yielded a 59-78 record, with the Eagles playing finals just twice. Then came a three year hiatus before the rescue mission with the Bomber kids and the flotsam and jetsam of outcasts, soon-to-be-retirees and VFL footy players in his first season at Windy Hill.

He deserves credit for the way he handled that season and the situation. A steady hand on the tiller as Essendon had to rebuild, not just the 2016 list, but the trust of the game after a dark, dark period.

Since then though, it's been a trio of 12-win seasons, and two finals touch-ups. Not bad. But certainly not great. And throughout that time, it's hard to remember too many occasions where Essendon looked truly convincing. That you could trust this team. That they could go out there week to week and you'd get the same effort and intensity.

There's no doubt injuries have taken their toll, but you could say the same of Collingwood or Richmond or any of the contenders. And the situation looks significantly better than at say Melbourne. But you can't help but feel that there's a good team in there, trying to get out. And this was supposed to be the year.

The arrival of Dylan Shiel was to be the final piece of the puzzle, and move the Dons into the elite midfield territory, but Shiel has disappointed. Joe Daniher once again succumbed to injury. Injuries also afflicted Dyson Heppell, Devon Smith and others. And for all the flashes of brilliance from Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti or Orazio Fantasia, too often players went missing when the hard yards were needed, and backs were against the wall, leaving unheralded players like Mitch Brown, or Shaun McKernan or Mason Redman to try and keep the ship afloat.

The gameplan often felt stale and one dimensional. At their best Essendon would surgical destroy the opposition with run, carry and quick ball movement front to back. At its worst, no pressure in the forward half, a lack of intensity in the contest and an inability to change the course of a game blighted performances.

And so what now? Let's return to the theme. Look forward, not back. Worsfold does not appear to be the man to take a talented group to the next level, and not just turn up in the first week of September, but actually play a meaningful part. He is contracted until the end of next year but a change must come. But the direction and identity of the footy club must be established and defined before the decision on who comes next is made.

The trade moves over the past few years were designed to make Essendon compete in the here and now. But in reality they have stood still. The job now is to decide what they want the club to look like in two, three, four years' time and start on that road.

The drugs saga didn't so much press reset -- at least on the field -- but pause. Essendon are now somewhere in that 7-10 bracket. Just as before. So tough choices have to be made to break the mediocrity. It starts with the coach. And continues with the biggest name, and a name synonymous with the history of the club - Daniher.

So much of the Bombers' early season structure seemed based around Joe, this year and last, and it stifled some of the other positives within the group. Essendon can't go on hoping that Daniher -- who will be a free agent at the end of next season when he comes out of contract -- will be fit for a year, when history tells you otherwise.

As hard as it may be, it's time to let go of the past, and build for the future. And for the fan base -- of which I am one -- the past is exactly that. No finals win in 15 years. No quick fixes. But if the right direction is taken over the next few weeks and months, then in the future there may just be the chance to see the Bombers fly up.