THE overwhelming feeling on Tuesday night from this Essendon member as the supplement scandal penalties on the club were handed down was one of relief.
As severe as the sanctions imposed by the AFL on the Bombers for their 2011-2012 supplements program – and they are the harshest in the game’s history – we knew what was coming.
All the speculation surrounding coach James Hird copping a one-year suspension, the club being kicked out of the finals, a massive fine and loss of draft picks were duly handed down by the AFL commission. It’s shattering for the club and us supporters, but there were no shocks in the penalties.
Perhaps it will hit home in a couple of weeks when the finals start and the Bombers are missing, or in round one next year when Hirdy – the prodigal son for us red and black faithful whose homecoming as coach was hailed with great fanfare in September 2010 – isn’t in the coaches box, or maybe it’s a realisation that the prospect of Essendon doing any damage in September had faded drastically over the past month.
But the overall feeling of relief comes from the simple fact that this story that has hijacked the 2013 season since February 5 has finally met its resolution from an AFL perspective.
The ASADA investigation continues and with, it the players – who are the victims in this sorry saga – still aren’t out of the woods.
Like most football fans, the constant coverage of the story as it took on continued twists and turns on the back of every new revelation has been suffocating. Whether you read a paper, turned on the TV or the radio, there was no escape.
The Bombers will play Richmond on Saturday night at the MCG in what’s now being billed as a dead rubber to bring down the curtain on season 2013 for Essendon.
There will be no September action and a crack at a 17th premiership for the Bombers, but it has been an extraordinary effort by the players to get the club into the position where stripping it of its finals berth was a sanction.
With all the drama and innuendo off the field this year that has played out as a daytime soap opera, on field the Bombers have won 14 of their 21 games and up until round 18 were sitting second on the ladder.
For all the serious failings of the club last year in its player welfare that were detailed in last week’s release of the 34-page charge sheet – and the club has duly copped its right whack for its lack of governance – I couldn’t be more prouder as a member of how resilient the playing group has been in the face of adversity and pulled together on the field with some extraordinary come-from-behind wins.
None better than the interstate victories over Adelaide in round one in the season-opener, plus the two wins over West Coast and Fremantle at Patersons Stadium immediately spring to mind, not to mention Anzac Day against Collingwood.
Yes, this will be remembered as the darkest year in Essendon’s history and will forever be a stain on the Bombers, and who knows just how crippling the sanctions, particularly the draft penalties, will set the club back going forward.
But at least we beat Carlton twice, which may be enough to keep the Blues out of the finals as well.
And for us Bomber fans, that’s some small solace moving forward.
Bring on 2014.