Essendon ruckman Matthew Leuenberger insists morale at the AFL side remains high as they approach the end of a meaningless and miserable season.
The Bombers are fully expected to collect the wooden spoon later this month, having recorded one victory in the opening 19 rounds.
The majority of the club’s best and most experienced players were suspended for the entire season following the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s (CAS) judgment on anti-doping offences.
“Every game has been pretty hard for us, let’s be honest,” Leuenberger said ahead of the Bombers’ clash with Geelong at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
“(Morale has been) surprisingly good considering we haven’t won a game since round two.
“We ride a few highs and a few lows, it’s been difficult and tough because footy at the end of the day is winning.
“Guys are hanging in there … we still see the last four weeks as something where we can get a few improvements and go from there.”
Leuenberger, who joined the Bombers as a free agent during the off-season, has found form and fitness after a frustrating run of injuries at Brisbane.
He isn’t the only Essendon player to benefit from 2016.
Leuenberger suggested the club’s youngsters have learned plenty this year, setting the club up well for 2017.
“Our list is in really good shape and I’d be excited for next year,” the 28-year-old said.
“Look at a guy like (Orazio) Fantasia, from the start of the year to what he’s doing now – some of his numbers are elite for the position he plays.
“Joey Daniher has improved a lot more as the season has gone on.
“Zach Merrett has taken his game to another level.
“Darcy Parish we’ve unearthed. We’re starting to see Aaron Francis come in, so there’s certainly been a few positives.”