Bombers don’t deserve to be playing finals

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Players express their frustration during the match between Essendon and Carlton at the MCG. (Photo: Andrew White/AFL Media)

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Even if Essendon isn’t stripped of premiership points by the AFL Commission and get the chance to play in September, they will only be making up the numbers if the past month’s performances are anything to go by.

One of the league’s penalties should be, if the club is found guilty of the charge that has been laid against it and four officials, which is bringing the game into disrepute, banning them from the finals, because it would put them out of their misery.

As we all thought, the drugs saga has caught up with Essendon on the field and probably later than predicted.

When Brisbane surprised them by defeating them at Docklands in Round 8, most in the footy world thought the fall was on then, but they got to Round 17 and the Hawthorn clash in second spot.

However, they have been belted since by the Hawks, Collingwood, West Coast and North Melbourne.

The Hawthorn match came off the back of allegations that AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou had tipped off then Essendon Chairman David Evans in a phone call that ASADA was looking into a supplement program provided by the club.

History tells us, the biggest off field story broke the next day and of course it’s still going, with no end in sight yet.

The Bombers started okay against the Hawks and to be fair that match was possibly an example of Hawthorn being far too good, but the Magpies disaster followed by the woeful displays against the Eagles and North showed the controversy has burnt the players out.

There was a chance that maybe they could rally when they took on the Roos after the AFL announced that at the moment they wouldn’t be sanctioning any players, but they appeared to be flatter than the Eagles defeat… and that’s saying something.

They are a shadow of the team that began the season in a blaze of glory. The skill level is currently almost not of AFL standard as error after error resulted in a North goal and it would be fair to say, the Kangaroos, outside the sublime Daniel Wells, didn’t play all that well either.

The fans also seemed to have had enough and know that if they play an elimination final, they won’t be going any further as the crowd numbers at Docklands against North were well down.

Essendon, even though they have stated publicly that they would fight the loss of premiership points for this season, you would hope privately have a different view and if found guilty and that’s one of the penalties handed out, they must accept it as they have to realise unless there’s a miracle, they won’t have a positive impact on the finals in 2013.

It would be disastrous for Essendon and the league as a whole if they are told they can play in the competition next year but their wins won’t count.

It would be a bold move by the AFL to take that stance as it means one game every week would mean nothing and that compromises the multi-million dollar broadcasting deal.

On current form, Essendon would probably only defeat Melbourne and the GWS, which indicates with all due respects to those teams, how poor they are now and at the end of the day the club and the footy department only have themselves to blame for this predicament, even if all parties who have been charged by the league are still innocent until proven guilty.

The league is set to hand down that outcome next week, and not before time. We have a finals series to play and watch.

It would be nice to concentrate solely on the footy for once this season.

Dan Lonergan is one Australia's most respected and versatile commentators. In more than 16 years on ABC Grandstand he has covered AFL footy (including four Grand Finals), cricket, tennis, and three Olympic Games, including London 2012 where he commentated 16 sports.
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