Furious Essendon coach Mark Thompson has refused to accept their tumultuous last few days as an excuse for the agonising one-point AFL loss to Melbourne.
The Demons were superb on Sunday night at the MCG, storming back from 33 points down early in the third term to win 12.6 (78) to 10.17 (77).
The result was as soul-destroying for the crisis-plagued Bombers as it was an enormous boost for the developing Demons.
It followed news on Thursday that ASADA was issuing show cause notices to 34 current and past Essendon players over the club’s supplements scandal.
Essendon and banned coach James Hird then launched legal action on Friday against ASADA.
Early last week, Essendon captain Jobe Watson also had leg surgery that could end his season.
And veteran defender Dustin Fletcher was a late withdrawal from the match with back soreness.
Thompson had an unusually-long meeting with his players after the loss, keeping them behind closed doors for 45 minutes.
He was adamant the meeting was about the way they were playing, not the broader issue of the ASADA notices.
“Purely – I promise you, it wasn’t anything else,” Thompson said.
“We talk about it (Essendon’s supplements crisis) and then people can use it as an excuse, but it’s not an excuse in our eyes, my eyes.
“We’ve lived with this.
“It’s a bit worse than other weeks we’ve had recently, but we’ve been smashed for two years.
“It’s not as if they come out today and couldn’t play because of the week they’ve had – come on.
“We can’t accept that.”
Thompson said he would have felt the same way had they won by five points or lost by 10 points.
He said too many players were doing what they wanted and too many of their teammates were letting them get away from it.
Also on Sunday, the Western Bulldogs had their best win of the season when they staged a major upset and beat Collingwood by 20 points.
After several weeks of growing pressure, in particular plenty of discussion about their relevance in the AFL, the Bulldogs were outstanding at Etihad Stadium in the 16.10 (106) to 15.8 (98) win.
It was the Bulldogs’ fourth win of the season and stopped dead Collingwood’s growing momentum.
Geelong predictably tore St Kilda apart at Simonds Stadium, winning 20.13 (133) to 5.7 (37).
Brisbane legend Jonathan Brown also confessed that he will weigh up his playing future after suffering a third heavy head knock in 12 months.
Brown said he was leaning towards continuing, but will consult with his wife and club medical staff after being hurt in Saturday night’s 45-point loss to Greater Westen Sydney.
The three-time premiership player added the prospect of retirement did not frighten him.
West Coast beat Gold Coast at home by three points, while Lance Franklin starred with five goals as Sydney beat Port Adelaide by four points in a possible grand final preview.
Fremantle beat Richmond at the MCG by 20 points and Hawthorn opened round 13 on Friday night with a 28-point win over Carlton.