It was the last home game for Aaron Sandilands and Hayden Ballantyne.
Essendon got an early glimpse into what lies ahead for their season of pain during a 105-point drubbing from West Coast in Sunday’s AFL practice match at Domain Stadium.
The Bombers entered the match fielding a side that will closely resemble the one that runs out against Gold Coast in round one.
But they were no match for a strong Eagles outfit gearing up for a premiership challenge this year.
West Coast booted eight of the first nine goals to set up the 1.23.11 (158) to 0.7.11 (53) victory, with Matt Priddis starring through the midfield, and Jeremy McGovern booting three goals after starting in defence.
The Bombers are short-priced favourites to win this year’s wooden spoon after 12 of their players were handed season-long doping bans.
And Essendon’s performance against the Eagles in a match that began in 39-degree heat wouldn’t have given supporters much hope for what’s in store this year.
One massive positive for the Bombers was the performance of spearhead Joe Daniher, who tallied 18 disposals, 10 inside 50s and 1.3 from limited opportunities.
The 22-year-old has bulked up to 94kg this season, and he used his 201cm frame to bash and crash his way through several contests.
David Zaharakis, ex-Cat Mathew Stokes, and rookie Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti also tried their best.
But the Bombers’ lack of starpower across the park was evident as the Eagles piled on the goals in front of 9210 fans.
Nic Naitanui starred in the ruck, while forwards Josh Kennedy, Jack Darling, and Josh Hill booted three goals apiece.
The Eagles held a commanding 85-25 lead by half-time, and they racked up another eight goals in the third quarter to heap more misery on the Bombers.
Essendon will be bolstered by the inclusion of Ryan Crowley for round one, while ruckman Matthew Leuenberger and top-up player Nathan Grima are also in the mix after putting in strong displays for Essendon’s VFL team on Saturday.
But with Courtenay Dempsey suspended for the first three rounds of the season, the Bombers have little else in the tank to strengthen their side.
West Coast appear primed for their round-one clash with Brisbane in Perth.
Although Sharrod Wellingham (knee), Dom Sheed (knee), and Chris Masten (ankle) won’t be available for the start of the season, West Coast ooze depth all over the park.