Dons face first AFL spoon in 83 years

Essendon forward Joe Daniher would gladly swap the coveted No.1 draft pick for another win as the Bombers prepare to kiss goodbye to their scandal-ridden era.

All things being equal, Saturday’s match with Carlton will be the final time Essendon players take the field under threat of sanction or feeling the weight of anti-doping bans from their 2012 supplements saga.

The cost in 2016 has been a 19-loss season and, if the Blues make it 20 in their MCG meeting, a first wooden spoon since 1933.

Despite the benefit of gaining a No.1 pick if last, star forward Daniher said he’d prefer to end the season on a high.

“Wins have been hard to come by for our footy club this year,” he said.

“To finish on a really positive note would be something really good for our fans and our players going forward so that’s the plan.”

Opponents Carlton know a little bit about getting up off the canvas.

It was the Blues who bottomed out last season, only to rebound in 2016 under new coach Brendon Bolton.

The first-year senior coach could claim an eighth win in a meritorious, if inconsistent, campaign on Saturday.

It’s 14th against 18th but Bolton said any game for a young list against a chief rival would be meaningful.

“Some people may think the game is a dead rubber but it’s far from that,” he said.

Bolton said the club’s biggest progress couldn’t be seen on the ladder.

“We’re now a united footy club and we’ve built really strong relationships across our whole club,” he said.

“That’s what we’re most proud of.

“We don’t want the season to end.”

Essendon (2-19) will win the wooden spoon with a loss or if Brisbane (3-18) beat St Kilda on Sunday afternoon.

A three per cent gap in Brisbane’s favour means the Dons must also win big or rely on a Lions thrashing to avoid last place.

Both sides have changes and milestones for the occasion.

Stand-in captain Brendon Goddard headlines for inclusions for Essendon, with Courtenay Dempsey, Nick Kommer, Shaun McKernan also coming in.

Mathew Stokes and Adam Cooney won’t play, effectively ending their AFL careers, with Orazio Fantasia (groin) denied a round 23 run and top-up ruck Mark Jamar now in uncertain waters.

Bolton has returned Sam Kerridge and Jack Silvagni to the side for Andrejs Everitt and Ed Curnow (knee).

Dale Thomas will celebrate his 200th AFL match while Patrick Ambrose hits 50 games for Essendon.

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