Experienced Bomber Michael Hurley says Essendon’s disappointing elimination final loss to West Coast on Thursday shows just how much the Bombers need to improve to take the next step.
It was never going to be an easy task against the reigning premiers on their home turf, but Essendon was outclassed throughout the 55-point loss.
Hurley said disappointment was the overriding emotion after the season-ending defeat that proved the side wasn’t up to scratch at Optus Stadium.
“It was really clear tonight that we weren’t really up to the standard and West Coast was a class above,” Hurley said post-game.
“It just shows how much we’ve got to work on.”
A burst of eight goals to Essendon’s one across the first and second quarters was the key to West Coast’s impressive victory, with the Eagles booting seven of those from just 13 inside 50s in the dominant period.
Hurley said the ease at which the Eagles’ forwards capitalised on their opportunities inside the forward 50 was a result of a lack of pressure further up the ground.
“It broke down in a few areas,” he said.
“We found when there was no pressure on the ball coming in, they were able to score far too easily.
“When we put the heat and pressure on the ball and got the ball going forward we looked okay, but as soon as that fell down they were just moving the ball way too easily.”
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Hurley’s four games of finals experience towered over the majority of the largely inexperienced red and black line-up.
He said the game will prove to be a valuable learning experience for much of the young team.
“I just tried to make (the other players) feel as calm as possible.
“Finals footy goes to another level and we saw tonight that we couldn’t quite lift like West Coast did.
“It’s great experience for those younger players. Woosha asked the question of the group about how many players hadn’t played a final before and I think at least half of the guys put their hand up after the game.
“It’s a great experience and we’ll learn a lot from that; it shows we’ve got a bit of work to do.”
Adam Saad was outstanding in his first ever finals game. (Image: AFL Photos)
Hurley said he feels the club has made some improvement this year but admitted there is a long journey ahead as the players enter the off-season.
“Putting aside the disappointment of tonight, I think we did take some steps forward. But as I said earlier, tonight shows we have a lot of work to do.
“Looking at West Coast and their experience, their bigger bodies and the way they were able to move the ball was just much better than us and it shows we’ve got a lot of work to do.
“We have an off-season now where we can plan for going forward, but we’ve got to crack into pre-season – we’ve got a lot of learning to do.”
Many members of the Bombers’ young brigade were the shining lights for the side on Thursday, with Andrew McGrath (30 disposals, six score involvements, five inside 50s and four rebound 50s) and Aaron Francis (20 disposals and six intercept possessions) particularly impressive against the Eagles.
Their performances followed the impressive breakthrough seasons of a number of inexperienced Dons including midfielder Darcy Parish and sweeping defender Mason Redman, while mid-season recruit Will Snelling and first-year Bomber Brayden Ham drew plenty of praised from Hurley.
“Snelling came in (to the club) late, he really showed that he’s an AFL player. Brayden Ham has got a lot of class as well, so he’s another find for us,” Hurley said.
“I think with another pre-season – another 12 months – will see these guys get bigger, get stronger and hopefully keep developing.”
Hurley also lauded the club’s passionate fans for their ongoing support.
“They’re obviously fantastic.
“I’m a bit biased, but I think we’ve got the best supporters in the competition; they front up week in, week out.
“Our form was up and down at times, but they were always there and it really lifts the boys, so thanks very much.”