AFL

Essendon CAS verdict: Bombers begin the process of moving on

The remnants of Essendon's decimated playing group have taken part in their first public training session since Tuesday's devastating Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling against 12 of their teammates.

In front of hundreds of loyal fans at Tullamarine on Thursday morning, the Bombers' senior list were put through their paces in overcast conditions and under the watchful eye of new coach John Worsfold.

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But they did so without Tom Bellchambers, Travis Colyer, Dyson Heppell, Michael Hibberd, Heath Hocking, Cale Hooker, Ben Howlett, Michael Hurley, David Myers, Tayte Pears, Brent Stanton and captain Jobe Watson, who were all stunningly suspended for the entire 2016 season.

The Essendon players unaffected by the CAS decision, including rookie-listed players such as Will Hams, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti and Gach Nyuon, who could very well find themselves on the senior list in the coming days, were greeted by numerous rounds of rapturous applause from the fans who turned up to the True Value Solar Centre in Tullamarine.

Essendon fans
Loyal to the end ... Bombers fans at training. Photo: Getty Images

The players showed their appreciation of the fans' support by high-fiving and thanking many of them after running a lap of the oval.

Club legend Kevin Sheedy also provided some comic relief by making light of Courtenay Dempsey's long beard and likening him to a wizard without a walking stick.

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Although parts of the crowd weren't too pleased at the sight of members of the media in attendance, and made that clear when they hurled verbal abuse towards some reporters. Perhaps they felt aggrieved at the way the Essendon doping scandal has been covered over the past three years.

But not all Essendon fans at the training session were in a hostile mood and one such individual was a fan by the name of Damien. Before even speaking to Damien about the hefty playing bans dished out to his heroes, his thoughts on the issue were already crystal clear.

Bombers fan
Essendon support: Bombers fan 'Damien' makes his feelings known about the CAS decision. Photo: Getty Images

He was carrying a banner that read: "A miscarriage of justice has made our boys victims. Penalise the perpetrators and not the victims."

Damien struggled to come to terms with the fact that the CAS came to such a different conclusion to the AFL anti-doping tribunal last year.

"If just a few months ago after such a long period and so much going on, a body OK'd it and then set our boys free, if they felt there wasn't enough proof as much as we feel, then I feel quite confident that our boys are innocent," Damien said.

"It's certainly frustrating. Frustration number one that it took so long for a stupid decision of this nature. Frustration that, as much as we feel our boys are innocent, they have penalised our boys and unfortunately that body is too strong for anybody to fight against and against our wishes we have got to accept the decision."

Despite the bleak short-term outlook for the club, Damien was confident that his team would be able to turn things around rapidly.

"We are a very strong club, we've got a very strong membership and we've got young men who are out there to prove that they'll make it," he said.

"People say it will take another 10 years [to recover]. Personally, my humble opinion, we will make it much more quicker than 10 years and we will do it."

Prized off-season recruit Matthew Leuenberger was restricted to light duties on the sidelines as he continues to manage his troublesome Achilles.

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