“John Worsfold’s a hero in my view and all Essendon supporters should regard him as such,” he told The Age. “We’ve been very fortunate to have someone of his character and calibre leading the club over that period.”
Tanner said Worsfold, whose term will coincide with Tanner’s entire presidency, had helped rebuilding, “not just a team, we were rebuilding a club”.
Of Essendon’s on-field prospects, Tanner said: “We obviously believe we’re building towards an opportunity, you know, looked around the 2020 to 2022 kind of area, to be up in the upper echelon. That’s been the approach, to get ourselves over the impact of the drugs crisis, consolidate and gradually put together a group of players that … get us up to the zone we haven’t been in for quite a long time.”
But Tanner also said that the fallout from COVID-19 meant Essendon were facing a similar financial loss to the drawn-out ASADA crisis, after achieving rapid financial recovery. He said the debt from the drugs crisis had been “pushing up to about $13 million,” adding, “we’ll end up in a similar sort of position that we were at the peak of the drugs crisis.”
The Dons had wiped off most of that $13 million in debt, with Brasher credited with a key role in that achievement.
Tanner, who took over as president just weeks before current and former players were suspended for a season by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, said he had not had any second thoughts about staying on during the COVID-19 crisis.
Tanner called his successor Brasher, a key figure in Essendon’s financial recovery, “indispensable” to the Bombers during Tanner’s time.
“No, no second thoughts,” Tanner told The Age of his decision, which he had flagged at the club’s annual general meeting late last year. “All the key people who navigated the club through that period, both management and board, are still in place. There’s no case for me changing my position.”
Tanner has a number of board and business commitments, having just become chairman of a superannuation services business.
“The driver of the decision is a combination of things,” he said. “One is that it’s a reasonable period of time for someone to be president, secondly the pressure of other commitments has increased significantly, thirdly I saw myself as taking on the position to do a job, which was to get the place back in good shape after the consequences of the ASADA stuff.
“Clearly that phase is now over. We are a normal club, we’re in good shape and well positioned to battle our way through the extraordinary situation all our clubs are now facing.”
Tanner said he intended to stay on the board, as flagged. His term finishes late in 2021 but he did not know how long he would remain. “I certainly won’t pursue another term … whether I remain there for the whole year I think depends a bit on circumstances.” He expected to remain president for the duration of this season.
Tanner said of Brasher: “It’s well documented that the club got itself into strife because of governance deficiencies and there’s been an enormous rebuilding of the governance infrastructure that Paul has driven.
“He’s also been very important on the board generally and as mad a supporter as anybody I know. “
Brasher, an Essendon board member for the past eight years, is finance director, chair of the audit, risk and integrity committee and the only surviving board member from the disastrous 2012 season. And as such, to avoid any issues, Brasher chose to be put before the members in an election in Tanner’s tenure.
Brasher was a partner at accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), then chaired the Australian firm and rose to the heights of chairman of PwC’s global board.
Brasher has been chairman of Incitec Pivot Limited and of the Reach Foundation, director of Amcor Limited and Perpetual Limited, board member of the Victorian Arts Centre Trust and Teach for Australia.
In a statement, Brasher said: “I am delighted to be named president-in-waiting of the Essendon Football Club.
“Firstly, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge and thank Lindsay for his leadership as president since 2015. His guidance and direction has ensured crucial stability for our football club.
“I am very proud to be representing our members as president of this great club, and I look forward to continuing to build on the strong foundations.”
Jake Niall is a Walkley award-winning sports journalist and chief AFL writer for The Age.