Dons put behind more drama to record first win of 2014 season.
The Essendon Bombers confirmed their reputation for putting their off-field dramas behind them, as they cruised to a 39-point victory at Etihad Stadium.
With suspended coach James Hird meeting with the Essendon board to determine his immediate future, Hird’s wife Tania amazingly revealed the club were tipped off about the supplements scandal by AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou.
Despite the ongoing saga, the Bombers showed too much class to run away to a deserving 15.9 (99) to 9.6 (60) victory against a Kangaroos side that failed to fire for much of the night.
Cutting the Roos apart with precision short passes through the middle of the ground, Essendon hit targets in the open way too often for the liking of a team whose No.1 pre-season focus was improving its defence.
The Bombers’ almost complete control of general play was illustrated by their dominance of possessions (449-291), marks (159-73), clearances (52-30) and stoppages (35-21).
Jobe Watson ensured Dustin Fletcher’s club record 379th game would be an enjoyable one, racking up 38 possessions, including 25 in the first half, to be the dominant player on the ground.
Paul Chapman also made sure former Geelong mentor Thompson’s return to senior coaching was a successful one, kicking four goals and pumping the ball inside the Bombers’ forward 50 an equal game-high eight times in his first game in the black and red.
Brendon Goddard, Dyson Heppell and Jackson Merrett were important for the Bombers around the ground, Cale Hooker and Michael Hurley impassable in defence and Joe Daniher gave some glimpses of the pack marking Bombers fans can expect to see over the next decade.
It was a dirty night for the Roos, one that ensured Brad Scott remains winless in round one games since he took over at the Roos in 2010.
North had been hyped as a top-four contender for much of the off-season, but struggled to find the ball against the Bombers and, even they did, their ball use was sloppy, particularly going inside their forward 50.
The Roos ran out at the start of the game to jets of electric blue smoke, but they were perhaps the biggest shots they fired all night.
Lindsay Thomas was the Roos’ only winner on the night, the small forward bagging four goals and a couple of speccys, while Jamie Macmillan and veteran Brent Harvey at least battled hard.
To make matters worse for North, ruckman Todd Goldstein suffered a corked left shoulder after copping a knock in a ruck contest midway through the first quarter.