‘Dons back Hird in AFL

James Hird has received strong support from Essendon chief executive Xavier Campbell on the same day the Bombers capitulated again.

Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge admitted after Sunday’s 19.13 (127) to 5.10 (40) belting at Etihad Stadium that he had implored his players to not let up on Essendon.

It had the desired effect, with the Bulldogs improving their percentage from 106 to 113.1 and climbing above Richmond to fifth on the ladder.

As the Bulldogs continue their barnstorming season, Hird was left lamenting another umcompetitive effort.

It came four weeks after St Kilda mauled Essendon by 110 points.

While the Bombers’ hierarchy will hold a review at the end of the season, Campbell said on Sunday that Hird will coach Essendon next year.

“James is contracted next year and James will coach the club next year. 100 per cent,” Campbell told 3AW.

“I can’t see anything else changing between now and then.

“I appreciate there is a school of thought around extending (his contract) but we will set relevant KPIs for James like we do for other football staff and we will go from there.”

Beveridge said the Bulldogs were mindful after halftime that they had a golden opportunity to ramp up their percentage.

“We were, actually, because we haven’t had many opportunities to have big margins and today presented one,” he said.

“We’ve spoken about it, the couple of times we have (had that opportunity) … ‘let’s go in for it and try and stretch it out as much as we can with no complacency’ and all of those sorts of messages.

“All of the players got their heads around that and I didn’t really feel that we dropped off at all.”

Also on Sunday, Fremantle stayed top with a 21-point home win over GWS.

Dockers defender Zac Dawson played his first game this season and is certain to face video scrutiny after his elbow caught Giants star Jeremy Cameron in the face during the 12.12 (84) to 9.9 (63) win.

Port Adelaide stayed in the top-eight hunt with an emphatic 17.10 (112) to 6.13 (49) home win over St Kilda.

Sunday’s results were in stark contrast to the rest of round 18, which was punctuated by upsets.

Richmond beat raging premiership favourites Hawthorn on Friday night by 18 points.

Collingwood also crashed to their sixth-straight loss as Melbourne beat them for the first time since 2007.

The AFL rallied around Sydney star Adam Goodes with many gestures of support, after a week of often-poisonous debate about racism and what people think of the Swans star.

Goodes did not play as Sydney easily beat Adelaide at the SCG by 52 points.

Geelong are back in the top eight after beating Brisbane by 56 points, while North Melbourne also boosted their percentage with a 64-pint win over Carlton.

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