Never has the retirement of a player left a bigger gap in the structure of an AFL side than Matthew Lloyd retiring in 2009, leaving the Bombers without a proper key forward for the better part of the last decade.
Essendon’s AFL premiership campaign is in tatters after the Western Bulldogs embarrassed the Bombers, who capitulated in a stunning 104-point demolition at Marvel Stadium.
The ballistic Bulldogs smashed their opponents in a midfield masterclass on Saturday night that saw them boot 21 goals in a row in a 21.11 (137) to 4.9 (33) thumping that gives their finals hopes a huge boost.
The Dogs improved to a 10-10 record with the win and picked up six percentage points, while Essendon slipped to 11-9 in front of their home crowd of 41,806 fans.
Josh Dunkley and Jack Macrae led the charge with 39 and 38 possessions respectively, while Marcus Bontempelli was typically classy with 26 touches.
The rampant Dogs had 11 goal kickers in the mauling, Toby McLean, Bailey Dale, Josh Schache and Tory Dickson each booting three majors.
But as awesome as Luke Beveridge’s men were, John Worsfold’s charges gave little resistance in an insipid display.
Zach Merrett started slowly but finished with 33 disposals, but the story was really the low numbers, with stars Jake Stringer (seven disposals) and Orazio Fantasia (eight) receiving Bronx cheers from dismayed fans when they touched the ball in the second half.
The pressure on Worsfold that eased with a five-game winning run will return in spades following the lacklustre, at-times disinterested, performance.
Essendon actually started brilliantly, Dylan Shiel slotting the opening goal with just 23 seconds on the clock, but the Dogs were largely unstoppable from that point on.
Dunkley had 16 possessions and a goal by the first break as the Dogs leapt out to a 32-point lead.
That margin blew out to 54 points at halftime as the Bulldogs piled on seven unanswered goals.
A bad night got worse for the Bombers after the break, with horrendous turnovers gifting the Dogs the first two majors of the second half.
A record margin beckoned as Essendon’s scoring drought continued, leaving them 89 points in arrears at three-quarter time.
The Bulldogs cheer squad wryly applauded Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti’s goal with just over four minutes remaining in his side’s nightmare, the Bombers kicking the last three goals of the contest.