Aaron Francis has given Essendon more hope for the future on a day where they showed why there is so little to like about the present.
Sunday’s 37-point loss to Brisbane at Etihad Stadium was their 15th in a row – a club record.
Essendon had 12 more inside 50s and three more scoring shots, but once again their goal-kicking was woeful and they could manage only 12.19.
The Lions also whacked them in the clearances 47-33.
For the first time all season, Essendon went into this game as favourites, but Brisbane were better from the start and the Bombers were never quite able to redress the balance.
What also became apparent very early in the match is that the hype surrounding Francis is justified.
Essendon took Darcy Parish at No.5 in 2015’s national draft and Francis one selection later.
While Parish has enjoyed an outstanding debut season, injury delayed Francis’ debut until now.
There were no signs of nerves as Francis took several impressive marks in defence.
He also looked encouraging when the Bombers played him up forward later in the match.
“His ability to take a mark is really top-notch already,” coach John Worsfold said.
Francis is the latest player this season to give Essendon hope that their fortunes might be about to change.
Parish, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti and Orazio Francis have made great debuts.
But it is still a makeshift team, missing 12 players through doping suspensions, and it plays that way.
“There’s a pattern over the last six weeks where we’ve actually started to create ball winning and ball movement to get it inside 50,” Worsfold said.
“But we’re not finishing the job off as we should.
“We’re not getting the rewards from that hard work.”
Worsfold joked that if Essendon were to bring in a goal-kicking coach now, it would be a full-time role.
“It’s not a part-time job for us, where we’re at,” he said.
“We need to make sure we have a clear plan and an understanding of why our inaccuracy is as it is and what we’re doing about fixing it.”
Worsfold also pointed to the inside 50s count as a sign that Essendon were making the effort.
“The boys are still trying, they’re not up to it at the moment,” he said.
Key forward Joe Daniher sprayed a couple of shots at goal, but still finished with 4.1 despite having to leave the ground with a mouth injury early in the game.
“I don’t know if he wears a mouthguard – I would be horrified if he doesn’t,” Worsfold said.
“Some players elect not to (and) I just can’t fathom the risks they’re taking.”