Coach James Hird has hailed Essendon’s strong start to the AFL season as a tonic for their fans after the hell of the supplements scandal.
For the past three weeks, the Bombers have been able to concentrate on football and are 2-1 after Saturday’s 21-point win over fierce rivals Carlton.
Their latest win came a day after the AFL anti-doping tribunal found Essendon’s former sports scientist Stephen Dank guilty of 10 charges.
The tribunal’s findings appeared to be good news for Essendon before big decisions by ASADA and WADA.
The two anti-doping agencies are weighing whether to appeal against the tribunal’s March 31 not-guilty verdicts on 34 past and present Essendon players.
ASADA will decide next Tuesday, then WADA have another three weeks.
“We’re happy that we’re 2-1 (and) we’re happy that our supporters can wake up tomorrow morning with smiles on their faces,” Hird said.
“One thing that the players are very conscious of and we’re very conscious of is that we want to give Essendon supporters something to be happy about, and that’s winning games of football.”
Hird said he didn’t know much about the Dank verdicts.
“The only thing I was told is that the Essendon players would be very happy with the result, and that’s great,” he said.
Saturday was not all good news for Essendon – veteran utility Adam Cooney is out for three weeks with a hamstring injury.
Also, the Bombers squandered a 41-point lead at the start of the last term in an often scrappy game.
Carlton reduced the margin to 14 points before Ben Howlett kicked a steadying goal in the final minutes.
And Essendon lost clearances by a whopping 53-29.
But Hird said Essendon’s interrupted pre-season was no longer a factor in how they were playing.
“I don’t think it was a factor even this week. The reason that Carlton stayed in the game was that we lost the contest,” Hird said.
“Our contested possession rate was significantly lower … you keep the opposition in the game if you can’t win the contest.
“I wouldn’t be putting fitness or preparation down for the fact we didn’t win that last quarter.
“If you’re giving the opposition first use of the ball, you’re asking for trouble.”
Essendon will return to the MCG next Saturday for the annual Anzac Day blockbuster against Collingwood.