In an AFL season like no other, the challenges keep coming for Essendon and their coach John Worsfold.
Without their 12 suspended stars and relying on top-up players, the Bombers have exceeded all outside expectations in the opening month, having beaten Melbourne and been largely competitive in losses to Gold Coast, Port Adelaide and Geelong.
They took a significant step backwards in the first half against resurgent Collingwood on Anzac Day, with the Magpies leading by a whopping 76 points at the long interval.
Essendon did at least stem the bleeding by outscoring the Magpies by seven points in the second half of the 22.10 (142) to 11.7 (73) trouncing, but the damage had already been done.
“Three out of five of our starts have been pretty average and two have been OK,” said Worsfold.
“That puts the weighting in favour of we’ve got to do something about it.
“We haven’t done anything different in the other two weeks but we need to address why that may be the case.”
The sluggish starts are sure to be a major topic heading into Sunday’s clash against traditional rivals Carlton, who claimed their opening win of 2016 away to Fremantle on Sunday.
Having spent several years as a Blues assistant coach, Worsfold is well aware of the depth of the rivalry between the two clubs.
“I know from being at Carlton in the past it’s seen as a really traditional clash, being neighbouring suburbs,” said Worsfold.
“A few Essendon people even back before Christmas did say to me that they look forward to the Carlton clash as much as any clash throughout the year.”
The match will have an added edge as the two clubs were widely predicted to fill the bottom two spots on the ladder in 2016.