The Bombers’ shock eight-point loss to bottom side Brisbane at Etihad Stadium yesterday has prompted a furious reaction throughout the club.
Bombers chief executive Xavier Campbell vented his frustration on Twitter and the club’s official feed then retweeted the post.
“Not good enough. Not even close. Fans deserve so much better. 41,000 came out today and we let you down,” Campbell wrote.
Not good enough. Not even close. Fans deserve so much better. 41,000 came out today and we let you down.
— Xavier Campbell (@XCampbell79) July 2, 2017
When Joe Daniher announced last week that he had re-signed, the key forward spoke of their optimism about this season.
The thinking at Essendon was that after doing the hard yards in the first half of the year, the team was gelling.
The 10 players returning from their doping bans had become used to coach John Worsfold’s game style and the Bombers were ready to fire in the run to the finals..
They went into their round-13 bye on the back of an outstanding 70-point demolition of top-four hopefuls Port Adelaide.
But coming out of the break, the circumstances of their two agonising losses have the potential to knock Essendon’s season off the rails.
They somehow coughed up a 19-point lead with only a couple of minutes left against Sydney and lost by a point.
And yesterday, while Essendon clearly were below their best, the feeling was that Brisbane lacked the weight of experience and skill to cause one of the upsets of the season.
After all, there were compelling reasons why the Lions were two games clear on the bottom of the ladder at the start of round 15.
But after falling 27 points behind early in the final term, Brisbane roared back with six of the last seven goals for a famous win.
It leaves the Bombers 11th, two games out of eighth spot.
Damningly for Essendon, they were unable to adapt when Brisbane shut down their uncontested game.
Lions coach Chris Fagan said post-match their main focus was to stop Essendon’s uncontested marks.
Brisbane won that category handsomely, 93-63, and it did not matter that Essendon dominated the inside 50s 61-48.
“For a team to say that they achieved what they wanted to achieve, by stopping us doing that, is an indictment on our ability to take that on,” Worsfold said.
Essendon now have a massive game on Saturday against arch-rivals Collingwood, who are in even deeper strife after their loss to Hawthorn.
The Magpies face a litany of questions after their AFL finals hopes were all but extinguished with the 24-point defeat. Are they a good enough team to make the finals? Can they do it without significant list changes?
And is Nathan Buckley the right man for the job?
A top-eight finish is increasingly unlikely this season, with yesterday’s 18.10 (118) to 14.10 (94) defeat to the Hawks at the MCG condemning the Magpies to the bottom four with a 5-9 record.
The Pies have a horror run to end the season with five of their remaining eight games coming against current top-eight sides.
Buckley’s post-game message was clear: this is a developing side that deserves time to reach its potential.
The Pies coach – who previously linked his survival to the Pies making the finals – reeled off the names of a dozen young regulars who had yet to reach their prime.
“All of those players will improve, and they all have to improve for us to improve as a team – then 5-9 turns into 9-5,” Buckley said.
“The reality is we are a side coming from a fair way back, with youth, to try and grow and develop.
“We haven’t met expectations in regards to our progress and our growth. Do we just pack up, do we just give up on it?
“Maybe this is part of the journey they need to go through to realise how tough the comp is, and how quickly 5-9 can come about when they don’t take their chances.”
Former Melbourne coach Paul Roos stoked the fire by taking aim at the Magpies’ “appalling” list management in recent seasons.
The decision to hand big deals to injury-prone midfielder Daniel Wells and fringe forward Chris Mayne during the off-season raised eyebrows.
However, two of the Magpies’ best players this year – midfielder Adam Treloar and half-back flanker Jeremy Howe – both arrived via trades, while Jordan De Goey’s best-afield performance suggests there’s cause for optimism about the next generation.
But the key question remains whether the Pies will stick with Buckley if they’re unable to pull off a miracle, and go a fourth consecutive season without making the finals.
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