James Hird has urged Essendon to compete relentlessly against Adelaide on Saturday after yet another week of savage speculation about the AFL club.
Last Saturday, former coach Mark Thompson said the club’s players were “drowning” and “damaged” by the ongoing supplements saga.
But Hird, who says he’s no longer paying attention to any form of football media, insists his side are focused on running out the season well – for the club’s sake and their own.
The Bombers have a large number of uncontracted senior players, including key man Jake Carlisle and veteran midfielder Brent Stanton.
Hird suggested some were playing for a 2016 contract in the final month of the season.
“For us it’s about the individuals, how they play and how they perform,” he said.
“But also we want to play in a certain way … a certain style.
“The past few years we’ve really done well in the contested-ball situation and this year we’ve been quite poor.”
Essendon have won just one of their past 10 matches and look to be limping to the finish line but Hird says his players remain motivated.
“They’re upbeat, they just want to play,” he said.
“The guys have been through a lot obviously but they just want to play footy and be allowed to play football with as little trouble as possible, as little hype as possible.”
After a season of almost never-ending bad news, the club can at least enjoy the return of two long-term AFL absentees against the Crows.
Tayte Pears plays his first match since 2013 and David Myers has overcome a shoulder injury suffered in the first quarter of the season.
Hird said luckless defender Pears deserved a clear run to the end of the season.
“Probably four years ago Tayte was one of the most exciting defenders in the comp,” he said.
“It’s been a terrific effort for him to come back after considerable injury last year, off-season surgery, so we’re very pleased for him.”
Michael Hurley is again sidelined by a minor knee injury but Hird said he would play in round 21 against Gold Coast.
“We thought it’d be a one-week injury, then a two-week injury and he may have just stirred it up last week … we’re very confident he’ll be right next week.”