AFL

Essendon CAS verdict: Bombers strong enough to withstand 'grenade'

A powerful Essendon coterie has declared the Bombers are "robust enough" to withstand the "grenade" thrown by the Court of Arbitration for Sport which has ruined their 2016 campaign and potentially set back the club for years.

Essendonians president Dr Peter Hughes has even written to the club's coterie groups, reminding them it is dark periods such as the one of the Bombers now find themselves in which will ultimately define their relationship with the club.

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"The Essendonians and all of the club's coterie groups will continue to stand behind the football club and offer whatever support we can to the players, administration, board and general membership," Hughes told Fairfax Media on Wednesday.

"I wrote to Essendonian members yesterday and reminded them that periods like this continue to define us as the strongest coterie in the AFL. Our mantra will be to remain calm, to not retrospectively assign blame and to concentrate on how we can assist any rebuild in the most positive manner.

Essendon legend Simon Madden (second right) listens during a press conference at the club on Tuesday.
Essendon legend Simon Madden (second right) listens during a press conference at the club on Tuesday. Photo: Getty Images

"I feel key sponsors will stand by the club as well and it was pleasing to see Kia reconfirm its commitment yesterday."

Fellow corporate partner Fujitsu has also pledged its ongoing support.

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Hughes said his thoughts were with the 34 players, of which a dozen were still at Essendon, who would be sidelined for a year.

This includes skipper Jobe Watson, who is considering walking away from the sport, and could have his 2012 Brownlow Medal stripped when the AFL Commission meets in February. Watson could also decide to voluntarily cede the medal.

"I feel deep empathy for the players on top of what they have already endured for a prolonged period. They are such a fantastic bunch of young men and it's hurtful to watch them go through this situation," Hughes said.

"Supporters that I have conversed with, I believe will stand behind the comments made by the chairman in so far as the decision has to be accepted and we have to move on.

"We all feel that our club is robust enough, united and has the character to withstand the 'grenade' that was thrown over the fence."

Bombers chairman Lindsay Tanner has pledged to return the club to "better days", and insists "they will come more quickly and more powerfully than you expect".

In the meantime, club great Matthew Lloyd says supporters may have to brace for a winless season, such will be the decimated side the club will field.

In addition to Watson, the likes of Dyson Heppell, Cale Hooker, Heath Hocking and Brent Stanton have been banned.

"Can we rebuild? Yes, of course, we can. Through adversity comes opportunity, particularly for some boys on the list to acquire game time," Hughes said.

"I think it actually will be exciting to watch the development of some real talent we have at the club in cognisance of building a platform for the future. These situations hone new tiers of leadership."