Sick of Essendon falling short, captain Zach Merrett is confident the Bombers can take steps towards closing the divide between themselves and the AFL's best.
The Bombers started 2023, their first season under Brad Scott, brightly but ultimately fell away to finish 11th, including two thumping late losses to GWS and Collingwood.
Essendon haven't won a final since 2004 - more than 7000 days ago.
Merrett was adamant the unwanted record wasn't hanging over the players, but he is keen to go up a gear.
"Players are sick of losing," Merrett said.
"The competition's so tight, we know a percentage here and there could be the difference between making finals, making the top four or the bottom four.
"We realised that late in the year when we just got over the two bottom teams in the comp, we really struggled to get those four points. Then we got blown away by some top teams.
"Hopefully guys improving individually, putting on size or getting better, fitter, understanding the game more, will allow coaches to pull more triggers in round one when we put it all together.
"Ultimately what I think I want to see or be a part of is a team that they (the fans) can rock up and they know what they're going to get.
"We certainly have kept improving and we've got the capability in the room ... but that ability to do it consistently is something we need to keep working on."
Essendon somewhat steadied a leaky defence last season, but will benefit massively from adding hulking key back Ben McKay this year.
"We improved from 18th to 15th (in team defence rankings), which doesn't seem like a big deal, but I think we were able to slow teams down a lot more, but they were still able to get through us and score when they went forward," Merrett said.
"We need to keep bridging that gap. It doesn't mean we need to be No.1, but we certainly need to bring that gap down to be able to balance our full game plan."
Merrett said midfielder Darcy Parish had been the Bombers' best pre-season performer as he eyes a return to his top form, while he personally has slimmed down.
"To be honest, I just felt like last year I was rushed a little bit with the captaincy being announced just before round one," Merrett said.
"I just feel a little bit more at ease (this year).
"I invested a lot of time and energy into my teammates as well last year, but this year I feel a bit more balanced that as much as I am giving to them, I'm also really homed in on being a better player myself."
Australian Associated Press