If not for Essendon's supplements scandal, news crews would have camped on Ahmed Saad's driveway for several days, not just James Hird's.

If not for Essendon's issues, Hawthorn would be fielding even more questions about Lance Franklin's intentions. The possibility that Buddy might leave has been irrelevant to his team's performance.

The Hawks, who have been comfortable and relaxed throughout 2013, recognise that the Bombers have provided some cover.

If not for Essendon's woes, Collingwood's pre-season problems with the ''volcanic'' behaviour of some players and self reporting of illicit drug use would have lingered past February. The Essendon story doused Collingwood's brief grief. If not for the Essendon ''tragedy'' - the dramatic word its noble former chairman David Evans used - there would be far more focus on illicit drug use by players, not so much on performance-enhancing drugs. Every club would not have been so furiously checking the contents of bottles, reviewing supplements and medical regimes. That's a long-range silver lining.

Had the Essendon bomb not detonated, Carlton's apparent misreading of its playing list and decision to jettison Brett Ratten for Mick Malthouse would have put that club under greater scrutiny, from within and without. Robert Walls might have written that scathing column six weeks ago. This still holds, despite the heroics against Richmond.

Without Essendon bearing the brunt, St Kilda's marked decline actually would have been noticed and Stephen Milne's rape charge would not have vanished from public view so suddenly.

If not for the Windy Hill saga, Melbourne would still be hopeless. Unlike Hawthorn, Carlton et al, the Demons weren't spared this year. They've been the alternative disaster.

Essendon's dramas are products of the new footy - sports science taken to extremes. Melbourne is an old-fashioned fiasco: A team losing games, money and hope.

If not for the Dons' debacle, to most Melburnians ''dank'' would merely be a word that means ''unpleasantly moist''. Had the Cronulla Sharks still been plunged into scandalous waters, via Stephen Dank's program, he would have remained a remote Sydney figure in the minds of AFL followers. We don't follow rugby league stories down south, unless they're connected to AFL.

Without Dank's texts, the ABC's 7.30 would not have detoured from talking about the real Julia, the unreal Kevin, and the unclear Tony.

If not for Essendon, Dustin Martin's demand for more than $600,000 would seem just as unwise. Dustin, you're not that good. Not yet.

The Bombers' situation has given other clubs and individuals refuge. But the relentless focus on their awful story - a media siege they think unwarranted, and for which ''the Hird'' blame Andrew Demetriou - also has overshadowed some of the more uplifting events, plus business as usual.

If not for the tumult at Essendon, that club's coach would never have taken on Demetriou. No one in the game can remember a figure of Hird's stature attempting a manoeuvre with such a high degree of difficulty.

Without the Essendon shemozzle, Eddie McGuire's gaffe about Adam Goodes would not have been so easily forgotten, even if it was forgiven.

In the absence of the scandal that has engulfed his club, Jobe Watson would be celebrated by all supporters of the game. The booing of Watson was typical of footy's immutable irrationality. Watson, when asked if he'd taken a substance, answered truthfully. If he had evaded or ducked the question, as others have, he would never have raised the heckles.

If Essendon's woes had not happened, the duller and worthy topic of equalisation would loom larger. Without Essendon, ASADA and WADA to deal with, Demetriou would have not been diverted away from other pressing issues and would not have been bagged - well, not as much - for a fact-finding tour of the United States.

Without the siege of Windy Hill, Ken Hinkley would be the coach of the moment. As it stands, he must be coach of the year. Without the Windy ills, Port Adelaide would the club-based story of the season. Port has shown that, despite the arms race in football, get the basics right - coach, recruiting, fitness - and the minnows can win.

If not for the supplements story, the development of a steeplechaser into an AFL footballer in the space of several games at Geelong would have sparked more discussion about converting athletes from other sports.

Without the Bombers' side show, Gary Ablett would still be the greatest player in the game. He's been the premier player in the AFL for longer than anyone over the last 25 years, including Wayne Carey and Ablett's father.

Without the investigation into who injected what into whom at whose direction, the Richmond Football Club would be the big Victorian outfit on everyone's lips.

Richmond's restoration - despite the Carlton setback - is so overdue that it's being treated like the Bulldogs winning a flag.

If not for the ASADA investigation, talkback would have not deviated from the evils of video review blunders, tribunal travesties, the rules of the game, interchanges and whether Lindsay Thomas and Chad Wingard can both make the All-Australian team.

If not for what happened to the Bombers, they'd have had a pretty good season - apart from the last four weeks.

We'd be wondering about the repeat of the late season slump, since scandal fatigue wouldn't be the obvious, or actual, explanation.

Finally, if this hadn't been visited upon the game, another club may well be adopting ''cutting edge'' sports science, with or without injections, that could take it to a dangerous plane.