Essendon coach James Hird has praised the resilience of his players after the Bombers recorded a stunning upset win over Hawthorn.
Having battled through two years of adversity and uncertainty surrounding the investigation into the club’s 2012 supplements program, Hird’s side was stung by their round-one loss to Sydney, where they gave up a 41-point lead.
Sunday’s match looked set to follow a similar script, with the Hawks overcoming a 35-point deficit to lead by 16 points in the final quarter, before the Bombers rattled home with the last three goals.
“I don’t know how you find something extra but … that group of players, and it’s not just the group that went through the last two years, but the new players that have come in, they’re an extremely resilient group,” Hird said.
“They’re an extremely tight group, they want to win, they want to be successful and they think they deserve success because of the work they put in.
“You can never count them out, and that’s why Sydney last week wasn’t typical, I didn’t think, of this team.
“This week, hopefully when we play teams, they know we’re never out of the contest.”
Cale Hooker was the hero with the sealing goal from a play that Hird said had been drilled into his side on the training track.
With a large group of players sitting out the NAB Challenge and the evidence of their opening-round fade out, questions were asked of Essendon’s preparation.
“We can sort of put that to bed now with the win, with the way we did it,” Hird said.
“It gives the guys a lot of confidence, particularly after last week when questions were being asked about our fitness and being so far in front against Sydney and being beaten.
“I think it’s huge for the players.”
Hawthorn lost Josh Gibson and Sam Mitchell from the side named on Thursday after the influential pair failed to recover in time after the Easter Monday clash against Geelong.
Key defender James Frawley was knocked out of the game in the first quarter with a pectoral injury that coach Alastair Clarkson said would likely see him miss some matches, with the severity to be determined by scans on Monday.
Fremantle have their own injury concerns after ruckman Zac Clarke sustained a knee injury late in the Dockers’ 44-point win over Geelong.
The win got Ross Lyon’s side off to a 2-0 start, but consigned the Cats to their first 0-2 start to the season since 2004.
Chris Scott’s side join Gold Coast, Carlton, Brisbane and Port Adelaide as teams who are yet to register a win two rounds into the season.
Three clubs – Adelaide, Greater Western Sydney and Western Bulldogs – who finished outside the eight last year join Fremantle and Sydney as unbeaten teams after two rounds.