Nathan Buckley and Garry Lyon tore strips off the Essendon Bombers on Friday night as they slumped to a shocking 70-point loss to Collingwood to end their season in diabolical fashion. The Bombers sat fifth after beating Adelaide in round 17, but only managed wins over bottom teams North Melbourne and West Coast in the final seven weeks to crash out of AFL finals contention.
Their 16.5 (101) to 3.13 (31) loss to Collingwood came after a 126-point hiding at the hands of Greater Western Sydney six days ago. Brad Scott, who took charge at Tullamarine in September last year, threw down the challenge to his charges to lift next season and bounce back.
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"We need to improve our list, we need to improve our football department, we need to improve right across the board," Scott said. "The recency bias is real. In a perverse way, the players leave with a sick feeling in their stomach and that should drive their off-season. The observations of the last nine-to-12 months is nowhere near where it needs to be, so we'll get that right."
Collingwood kicked the first 11 goals of Friday night's match, including eight in a clinical first quarter. The Bombers looked completely overwhelmed in front of 74,344 fans at the MCG.
“If you’re an Essendon supporter, you’re looking at some lack of efforts, some missed tackles, not putting your hands up on the mark, missed spoils, not going back with the flight – that’s not what you wanted to see after last week,” Buckley said on Fox Footy. “Essendon came out after quarter-time and it was quite clear they wanted to possess the ball in their back half and defend with ball in hand.
"They were only able to do that for 90 seconds before that capitulated. It must be frustrating in the coaches box at the moment. I cannot imagine where Brad Scott goes with this group at half-time.”
Lyon labelled the Bombers’ first half as “pitiful” and “appalling”, saying: “This is a nightmare Friday night for them. I feel for Essendon supporters right now. They have to sit back and watch what they watched last week. Essendon pleaded with them to turn up to the MCG to their home game – and they witness this.”
Essendon players erupt in angry dressing-room scenes
The emotions were reportedly raw in the Bombers' dressing-rooms after the match, with a number of players making their feelings known in no uncertain terms. “We feel like we need to be working harder and challenge each other harder come the off-season,” captain Zach Merrett told Channel 7.
“We’re sick of ending our season in August. It’s no fun. It sucks watching other teams have their season alive. There were pretty strong messages from some of the players.
“We know we’re clearly still a long way off the top six – and probably the top eight to be fair. It’s time to get past being a mediocre club and a club that falls away like that.”
It’s actually astonishing how Essendon’s season has gone off the rails. Truly embarrassing
— Marc McGowan 🗣✍️👨🏻💻📰 (@ByMarcMcGowan) August 25, 2023
North Melbourne v Gold Coast deserved the Friday night slot more than this rubbish.
Embarrassing. Just embarrassing.
— Shane McInnes (@shanemcinnes) August 25, 2023
Essendon football club are a disgrace. There’s 8 blokes I’d keep.
Get rid of dodoro asap. Cull the list. Start again. Pathetic.
— Brendan Goss (@bg777bg) August 25, 2023
Scott refuted suggestions the Bombers' problems stemmed from a lack of fitness. "I don't think it's a fitness issue," he said. "There's a difference between training hard, and I think everyone trains hard, to what an AFL lifestyle looks like.
"We need a bigger core group of leaders who can set the example for what the very best look like and what they train like. We have had it rammed home to us really clearly that there's a gap between us and the best sides and we have to take extraordinary measures to bridge that gap. If we just keep rolling along we'll just be an OK team that is capable of beating some teams on good days but get smacked by the good teams on bad days."
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