Essendon’s AFL season is in freefall as the ASADA investigation bomb hovers overhead some time this week.
Essendon coach James Hird admitted the Bombers had been affected by another week of heavy speculation about possible penalties for their 2012 supplements program in their 53-point loss to West Coast at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
It was the Bombers’ third consecutive defeat by a combined total of 188 points, coinciding with the public pressure being ratcheted up on the club.
Hird admitted the obvious post-match – that his team is being affected by daily speculation over what penalties may be coming.
“There’s no doubt the speculation, the intensity of the press and the expectation of what’s to come can’t help but affect your preparation for the game,” Hird admitted.
“I think that’s across the board. I think the players were affected today. I think they were affected during the week.
“It was a big week in terms of off-field stuff.”
Tellingly the Bombers fell away badly in the last quarter to lose 18.12 (120) to 9.13 (67).
Adding to a bad day, Essendon veteran Dustin Fletcher was reported for high contact with Eagles utility Jamie Cripps in the last quarter.
It was Fletcher’s 378th senior game, equalling Simon Madden’s club record, and he can expect some sort of penalty.
In contrast, this was West Coast’s best win this season.
They started the round 11th, three games outside the top eight.
Eagles forward Mark LeCras returned from having his ribs crunched in the second term to star with five second-half goals.
Collingwood and Richmond both leap-frogged the Bombers after important wins on Saturday.
The Magpies, led by their midfield fab four of Scott Pendlebury, Dane Swan, Dayne Beams and Luke Ball, stunned premiers Sydney by 29 points at ANZ Stadium.
And Richmond are finals-bound for the first time in 12 years after seeing off a late Brisbane charge to win by 23 points.
But Carlton’s finals hopes are all but extinguished after their 28-point loss to the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
North Melbourne’s season also looks cooked after a nine-point loss to Adelaide at AAMI Stadium on Sunday.
The Kangaroos, West Coast, Carlton, Brisbane and now the Crows can all still finish ninth – which could bring them into finals play if Essendon suffer a penalty for the supplements saga which eliminates them from the top eight.
On Sunday evening, Fremantle shored up their top four spot with a 113-point thrashing of Greater Western Sydney at Patersons Stadium.
The Dockers had 15 individual goalkickers in the 24.13 (157) to 6.8 (44) rout.
On Friday night, Hawthorn maintained top spot on the ladder with a 46-point win over St Kilda at Etihad Stadium.