Saints shoot down Bombers’ top-ups in Morwell

Essendon’s long-running and morale-sapping AFL supplements scandal took its latest weird twist on Saturday at Morwell.

As coach James Hird sat in a corrugated iron box, officially returning from his 12-month suspension, and Brendon Goddard also watched from the stand, St Kilda overran a makeshift Bombers team by 50 points.

Saints coach Alan Richardson gathered his players on the field immediately after the 15.11 (101) to 8.3 (51) win and pointed out they probably would never experience anything like it again in their football careers.

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The Bombers were competitive for three quarters, but the Saints kicked clear in the last term for a predictable win.

“Their physicality, fitness and AFL conditioning probably got us in the end,” Hird said.

“The Essendon team acquitted themselves really well.

“You can’t be disappointed with their effort.”

Richardson said he was pleased that his players did not panic when Essendon kept the game tight for so long.

“It was a bit of a hiding to nothing thing, really,” Richardson said.

“If we won, we were supposed to win.

“If we lost, it was going to be a disaster.

“No doubt there was a challenge for the playing group and I was pleased with the way they responded.”

Essendon had to top up their team with former AFL players and imports from their VFL affiliate because a large chunk of their senior list is sitting out the pre-season.

Those who were at the club in 2012 are not playing until the AFL anti-doping tribunal hands down its verdicts.

But there were two more curious developments this week, with four of those 2012 players – all youngsters – given permission to play in Morwell.

Then, the AFL stepped in and banned six players, including Goddard, from taking part in a special training hitout organised for the 2012 group that did not play in Morwell.

Those six have all joined the club since 2012 and the AFL argued it would be unfair on the Saints and Morwell if that group had a hard hitout on Friday rather than play on Saturday.

Hird said this week’s twists and turns meant the six players to join the club after 2012 trained by themselves at 2.30pm on Friday.

Then the 2012 group had their hitout against the Williamstown VFL team at 5.30.

And then the top-up team played from 4.40 on Saturday.

“It’s been a big weekend,” Hird deadpanned.

“We’re running a few programs at the moment.”

Of Essendon’s top-up players, former Geelong defender Mitch Brown and ex-Saints onballer Clint Jones were particularly impressive.

“Their clubs had reasons why they’re not on the lists and I’m not second-guessing those,” Hird said.

“But it’s pretty obvious to me those two players can play AFL football.”


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