Carlton coach Mick Malthouse ponders a heavy loss.

Carlton coach Mick Malthouse ponders a heavy loss. Photo: Pat Scala

Carlton coach Mick Malthouse labelled his team's 81-point capitulation to Essendon at the MCG on Sunday evening as "embarrassing", said it came as a rude shock to him and revealed that the players called their own crisis meeting at night's end.

Conversely, Essendon's irresistible form has pleasantly surprised locum coach Mark Thompson, who shied away from a suggestion that he was coaching the team better than James Hird did, but said it might partly be down to the fact that he was under no pressure to keep his job. "I'm doing exactly what I want," he said.

The Bombers did as they pleased against the Blues in a dominant display. "It's embarrassing for our football club. We're embarrassed about our performance," said Malthouse. "Essendon totally outworked us. And I didn't see it coming. I was a million miles off that. There's only one salvation: we play in six days. There's nothing else we can take from that game.

Mick Malthouse says he did not expect such a performance by his Carlton team.

Mick Malthouse did not see such a big defeat coming. Photo: Getty Images

"I pray it's a one-off. I just hope it's a one-off. If that's the sort of stuff we're going to dish up, there's a miserable year in front of us. I'm loath to think we can actually dish that up again. We shouldn't take anything away from Essendon, but we didn't put pressure on them.

"Two or three shots in the first quarter were all kick-able, and we took none of them. Particularly senior players, when the ball's in your hand, you take that responsibility. We're not doing it. No-one could have been satisfied with their game."

Malthouse said the players' meeting, though unusual, was a positive step. "In their minds, they couldn't walk out without having a heart-to-heart," he said. "I'd be bitterly disappointed if they hadn't done that. They will come out of that meeting and ... assess where they're at as footballers, and do something about it."

Essendon has made an eye-catching beginning to 2014, with two thumping wins and a narrow loss to Hawthorn. Thompson remembered that the Bombers had made powerful starts to the last three seasons before falling away, but said there was a difference this time.

"I'm not surprised because I've seen all this before," he said. "But we're probably playing more consistent and better team football. They're understanding and actually sacrificing themselves better than they've done before. I'm proud about that."

But Thompson baulked at former Geelong captain Tom Harley's assessment that he was making a better fist of the job than Hird, who is serving a 12-month ban. "He didn't say that, did he?" said Thompson. "Here we go. I can't respond to that, apart from saying 'Tommy, you silly bugger, what did you do that for?'.

"It doesn't matter how I coach - I'm coach for this year, I'm enjoying it. I'm doing things that probably a coach who wants to have a career for a long time can't do because I'm just having a go. I'm just playing young people and doing different things. I'm doing exactly what I want. It would be nice for the players to have some success. It's the reason I'm doing it, so let's do it well."

Thompson said he could feel Essendon regathering as a force. "Our supporters came out tonight and I could hear them from the box," he said. "I've rarely heard that the last four years. They were loud. They were good. Well done.

"It's important to repay supporters. It's (been) a tough 15 months. We haven't beaten a good side since 2005. We've had two finals and been beaten, 80 points both of them, so it's been a long time for Essendon supporters. It's been a slow build, we've had a lot of problems but they've stuck fat with us and our players want to give back. I certainly do. We just want to make the place where they enjoy supporting and they would have been pretty proud tonight."