Essendon coach James Hird has welcomed the mid-season break for his physically and mentally exhausted players after their sixth loss in seven games.
The Bombers struggled to have an impact on the scoreboard for the second consecutive week, going down to an in-form West Coast 14.12 (96) to 6.10 (46) at Domain Stadium on Saturday.
A week after failing to kick a goal in a half, Essendon managed just four scoring shots in the opening two quarters and wasted several opportunities to get back in the contest after half-time.
Eagles pair Mark LeCras (four goals) and Josh Kennedy (three goals) killed off Essendon’s chances of an unlikely comeback when they combined for three majors inside five minutes early in the final term.
The Bombers (4-7) are now languishing in 13th spot and their hopes of playing in the finals are fading fast.
Essendon players will now have a few days away from the club before returning later in the week ahead of another daunting clash with reigning premiers Hawthorn on Saturday week.
“Certainly when you lose, you like to get back on the horse and work but it’s been a long first half of the year and a long couple of years and I think the players need a break,” Hird said.
“Eleven games to go, the season is halfway through. We get a break for a week, the guys will get four or five days off and then we’ll get back into some hard work.”
Hird lauded his team’s effort, enthusiasm and intensity against the Eagles after last weekend’s insipid performance against Geelong but said they needed to get a lot better at using the football.
“Thirty-give inside 50s isn’t going to win you any games of football,” he said.
“If you don’t win the clearances or the contested football it makes it very hard to score against a side like West Coast who are so good at keeping the ball in the forward half and creating stoppages in the forward half.
“We had a plan to get the ball into our forward half more. I thought we did it well early but it fell away at the back half.”
Second-placed West Coast have already turned their attention to Friday’s blockbuster against Richmond at the MCG.
Eagles coach Adam Simpson completed the post-match review before attending his media conference and admitted his team needed to address their flat starts following a similar opening against North Melbourne last weekend.
“I think three or four of our guys come off with knocks and we just weren’t settled and they were up and about, albeit after 10 minutes I think it was one-goal-all,” Simpson said.
“To be off like that and still be in the game is important because the last time we did that here was (against) Fremantle and it was 10 goals to zero.
“We weren’t great with our ball use but I thought we grinded away and found a reasonable way to win.”
Eagles key defender Jeremy McGovern was subbed off at three-quarter time with thigh and hand complaints and is in some doubt for the Tigers clash.