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Pies match could be tipping point for Bombers' season

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Essendon bombs on and off the field

Essendon's weekend started badly with a big loss to Hawthorn, and went downhill from there. Rohan Connolly and Jon Pierik review the weekend's AFL action.

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Essendon faced its biggest on-field test of the season on Friday night against Hawthorn and was found wanting. It's sobering indeed for the Bombers that what happened over the next 24 hours might prove an even bigger challenge.

It's often far too pat to suggest there will on-field consequences from boardroom turbulence. But there haven't been many controversies as big this year. And certainly few administrative figures with as close a link to the playing group as former Bomber chairman David Evans had.

Essendon players leave the field after a belting from Hawthorn.

Essendon players leave the field after a belting from Hawthorn. Photo: Getty Images

As the attention the drugs scandal has focused on Essendon has swirled around Windy Hill relentlessly, Evans has provided a crucial buffer, absorbing most of the blows and helping insulate coach James Hird and players from as much of the fallout as possible.

The result has been a team galvanised, and far from crumbling under the weight of pressure for much of this season it has been able to rise to the challenge.

The Bombers did so memorably in Perth, twice, the first time early in the season against Fremantle after Hird rode out a storm of criticism and calls for his head, the second against West Coast after captain Jobe Watson had conceded he'd taken AOD-9604.

But even those flare-ups might not carry the same ramifications as the departure of the club's most senior office-bearer.

It certainly hasn't been lost on the players that Evans had provided a critical bulwark, and their immediate response to his resignation and news of the stress and health scares he's dealt with was emotional, the hurt clearly greater than in the wake of other departures since this sorry saga began.

Brendon Goddard, Jason Winderlich, Cale Hooker and Ben Howlett vented their feelings on Twitter, the mood not just one of anger about what their leader had been forced to endure, but almost smacking of ''we've had enough of keeping our mouths shut and we're going to fire a few shots of our own''.

Will this be another opportunity to draw the Essendon list even closer together and instil greater determination to make this season a winner? Or is the Evans resignation going to prove the last straw?

Certainly, Sunday's game against Collingwood couldn't be more significant.

The Magpies are hardly travelling that well themselves, but will spot a real opportunity to pounce. Despite having won six games in a row before Friday night, Essendon's form for the past month hasn't been overly convincing.

Central to the equation is the fitness of Watson. Having missed three games with a broken collarbone, the captain, who was originally scheduled to miss a fourth, is now given every chance of playing.

Hird has already said the club won't take unnecessary risks, but the temptation to restore an obvious rallying point to the line-up will be strong indeed. If he plays, will Collingwood make him a target? Will the huge MCG crowd?

Can he and his teammates channel their obvious anger and frustration in the right direction? And how does the coach respond to being close to the last man standing beyond his players in the fallout?

You can back it in that if Essendon turns in another poor one, the popular belief will be that what has already been a remarkable show of resolve on-field has finally been broken.

The upside for a club, and a team now under siege, is that if the Bombers again pull out their best in these circumstances, the booster shot to an improving side’s self-belief will be immeasurable.



  • Cmon pies give us something finally this season! the time has come to stand up and take the bombers down!
    finals hopes are on the line

    pies man
    Date and time
    July 29, 2013, 8:30AM
    • Rohan,

      I wouldn't worry to much about this weekend, sure the Bombers may have a very serious off field issue to deal with - and no doubt more heads will roll (I don't think any amount of 'Essendon' self love will save Hird in the long run but anyway back to Sundays game), but at least they are playing mostly good footy - they will easily account for my Pies (remember 'complete pretenders' injuries aside). I'm sure the 'lads' aren't saying it publicly - but surely they are waiting for this season to end, at least subconsciously because presently, they would struggle to put in four quarters in against even an under 14's side (yes a little harsh but lets stop being nice for the sake of politeness) - the Pies are either mentally weak, or Buckley is seriously missing something, or both....

      The Bombers on the other hand have shown amazing resilience considering what has happened this year. But that's not to say they shouldn't still be severely punished.

      The boy who cried wolf
      Planet Earth
      Date and time
      July 29, 2013, 8:45AM
      • This is good in theory except for one thing... they're playing Collingwood who have been ordinary, at best. I think the long season is having an impact on our younger players.

        Date and time
        July 29, 2013, 10:07AM
        • As a Collingwood supporter I am very concerned about the way Collingwood is playing and have to admit that some of their efforts on Saturday against GWS and the Suns the week before were inept. Their set up defending restarts from kick-ins is woeful and lets teams get out of their back half with little concern. They don't seem to want to kick to advantage when going forward and unless they kick it long and on top of Cloke's head, they can't come up with any viable options. Why are they happy to have Cloke competing against two and three opponents all the time AND having Elliott trying to jump all over him? I was never a fan of Lappin when he was playing and I haven't seen anything from the forwards that makes me think he knows how to coach either.Their disposal by both hand and foot leaves a lot to be desired and opposition teams must be thinking they have a real chance against Collingwood because of the turnovers that result. There are a couple of positives to build on but they are a long way short of being a major player in the finals. I hope they prove me wrong.

          Date and time
          July 29, 2013, 10:09AM
          • Pie man I agree totally with what you say it is about time the Pies stood up for their supporters. We are sick and tied of receiving things from the Club to get more members on board to have 80,000 members it is about time Eddy and his team took a big look at what the Club is giving the supporters not to much as each week as I watch the game we are to SLOW and the forward line is useless poor Cloke is one man out all the time and needs help and the Coach is doing what Mick did does not make changes quickly enough Bucks may have been a great player but it appears it takes more to be a Coach than a great player.

            Date and time
            July 29, 2013, 10:40AM
            • Booster shot? LMAO

              Date and time
              July 29, 2013, 10:54AM
              • I'm not an AFL football follower but have been sort of following this saga and I'm wondering if the EFC are still using their 'supplements'.

                North Central Victoria
                Date and time
                July 29, 2013, 11:01AM
                • Agreed Pies. It has been your worst season in years but all will be forgiven if you smash the Bombers like the Hawks did!

                  Date and time
                  July 29, 2013, 12:12PM
                  • Just how badly are the Pies travelling? There past two performances against the two new franchise teams were shocking. The side seems to lack and hunger and intensity and were lucky to fall over the line against the Giants - only fatigue and injuries stopped Sheedy's men from taking the four points. Collingwood's decline under Buckley has been alarming. Best defense to worst in under two seasons.

                    Date and time
                    July 29, 2013, 12:26PM
                    • Lets talk footy......! Yey!! If Bombers go down to the Pies, and very likely to I think with Watson still unlikely and Carlisle and Melksham every chance to miss as well, the Top 4 is still not lost for the Dons. They will likely need to win the last four games to do so - but with a depleted Eagles at Etihad, bogey side North with a few injury issues themselves plus the 'just going' Blues, there are three games they will still be favorite in, and it probably comes down to beating the Tigers in the last round - which could be a must win for the Tigers to make the finals. So Top 4 is still possible despite a possible loss this Sunday to the Pies.

                      Date and time
                      July 29, 2013, 1:08PM
                      Comments are now closed

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