Essendon coach John Worsfold fears his banned batch of players have hit the wall.
After a 65-point defeat to Adelaide on Saturday night, Worsfold says ex-skipper Jobe Watson and others are struggling in their return to AFL ranks after a season on the sidelines.
“Some of those players have felt the pinch,” Worsfold said.
“It sort of hit us as a group … we have hit the wall a little bit in the last couple of weeks, so it gives us an idea about how much work we have got to do.”
Worsfold said the extent of the struggles of the banned players was hard to quantify.
“It’s really hard to assess that, it’s an unknown,” he said.
“We had that many players that are just coming back together … we have got to build that understanding of each other.
“One, we have got to find out where our fitness levels are right now. And I think we are going to find out a bit about that over a number of weeks.
“But it’s just a really hard thing at the moment to say ‘where do we sit as a group’.
“We know the talent we have got on our list but they haven’t played footy together for a long time.
“I hear other coaches regularly saying we have got two or three new players in our group and it’s taking a while to gel. Well, we’re in a real big part of that.”
Worsfold said Essendon were punished by a Crows team he regards as “one of the most highly-rated teams in the competition, if not the most highly-rated.
“We are playing a team that is playing potentially premiership football,” Worsfold said.
“They are moving the ball as good as you will see any team move it.”