Bombers set course to avoid spoon

John Worsfold at Essendon training this week.

 Essendon coach John Worsfold says the club will start the 2016 season with "high hopes" despite losing 12 of its best players to a season-long ban for doping offences.

In his first press conference since the decision to suspend 34 past and present players was handed down by the Court of Arbitration for Sport earlier this week, Worsfold (pictured) said it was possible the team could avoid the wooden spoon.

"We will be aiming above that," he said. "The morale is strong, but the emotional side and the shock and sadness they feel for each other is real, absolutely it's real."

While the club has been allowed to promote its five rookie-listed players, Worsfold said a country-wide search for 10 top-up players was "underway".

"Anyone we bring into this footy club has to have the same attitude we are looking for from our current squad - wanting to improve, wanting to really add value to us and be competitive, to train hard," he said.

The Bombers also need to find a new captain.

Of the Bombers who have been banned, five were part of the seven-man leadership group, including skipper Jobe Watson and his heir apparent Dyson Heppell.

Worsfold said former St Kilda star Brendon Goddard "appears to be an obvious choice".

The entire 34 banned players, including five now at rival AFL clubs, will be permitted to attend games as spectators, but will be barred from entering changerooms.