Well, it’s sadly come to this; the season has been suspended and the future remains uncertain.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t look back on Essendon’s narrow victory over Fremantle on Saturday, a win that will at least see us sit happily in the top eight for a while.
See the five things we liked the most from the game below.
1. Watching the Bombers while we could
The decision on whether the home and away season would go ahead on schedule went down to the death last Wednesday night, but we’re glad we got the chance to see the Dons start this bizarre season with a win.
The opportunity to see new Bombers Jacob Townsend and Tom Cutler in the red and black alongside a number of young guns getting further senior opportunities was brilliant, while we got a further glimpse of the side’s adjusted game style.
Although a more comfortable victory would have been better for the heart rates of the club’s passionate fans, it was a refreshing reminder of the emotional power of football.
The league remains steadfast on doing all it can for each team to take part in 17 games this season, so hopefully the Mighty Bombers are back sooner rather than later and we can all enjoy the footy again.
2. Shiel looking slick
It is hard to imagine the side winning without Dylan Shiel on Saturday.
The sensational midfielder had the ball on a string, kicking off his second season as a Bomber with a bang in a complete performance that ranks among his best at the club.
His textbook athleticism and ability to drive the ball forward with purpose was once again on show at Marvel Stadium, but it was also his defensive output that impressed as he piled the pressure onto his opponents and read the ball sweetly with four intercept possessions.
He racked up remarkable numbers given the shortened game length, claiming 35 disposals, 13 contested possessions, nine clearances and five score involvements to help lift the side to victory.
3. Smith back to his best
All you needed to see from Devon Smith was his reaction to booting the opening goal of the game to know what it means for him to be back playing footy.
After missing the majority of the 2019 season due to a knee injury, the tough onballer returned on Saturday and didn’t miss a beat.
Known for his rabid defensive pressure and grit in the contest, Smith was back to his aggressive best against the Dockers, making them earn every possession and proving vital in the dying stages of the game as it threatened to slip away.
Smith finished the match with a game-high 18 pressure acts to go with 15 disposals, eight contested possessions, five tackles and seven score involvements including his long-range goal, and senior coach John Worsfold was thrilled to have him back.
“He brings that intensity and heat around the ball, so it’s great to have him back out there,” Worsfold said.
“I thought in that last two minutes he put on some real defensive pressure around the ball and helped us defend that last couple of minutes really well.”
4. The fiery start from Townsend
Townsend was outstanding in his red and black debut, quickly showing why Essendon jumped at the opportunity to give the former Giant and Tiger another AFL lifeline.
You could have easily mistaken the 187cm Bomber for a genuine key forward in the opening half at Marvel Stadium as he provided his teammates with a dangerous target inside 50 and raked in a number of cracking contested marks.
His early contribution of three goals proved crucial as the Dons got an important buffer on the scoreboard before the fast-finishing Dockers threatened to snatch the game at the death, but his efforts weren’t restricted to simply impacting the scoreboard.
The 26-year-old, who grew up playing rugby in New South Wales, has gained a reputation for his bone-crunching tackles and I dare say some Dockers might still be feeling ginger after he put it all on display on Saturday.
4. The love from the fans
We felt your pain when it was announced fans would be unable to attend the game, but the resilience and passion of Essendon’s incredible fans shone brightly all week.
Wonderful messages of support flooded the club throughout the lead-up to the match and they were greatly appreciated by the Bombers at such an uncertain time.
We don’t know when the Bombers will be back out there, but we can guarantee they will have remarkable support behind them when they are.