Essendon coach Mark Thompson had a hunch things weren’t going to go well for his team against Fremantle on Sunday.
With his AFL side riddled with injuries and illness, the last thing Essendon wanted to do was travel all the way to Perth to play a match in 32-degree heat.
Midfielder David Myers didn’t even make it to the ground after a bout of vomiting grounded him at the team hotel.
A host of his teammates and coaching staff had also been struck down by the bug during the week.
And with Dustin Fletcher (soreness) and Paul Chapman (foot) also missing the match, Essendon couldn’t afford to lose any more of their soldiers.
But when it rains, it pours.
Star midfielder Brendon Goddard was subbed out of the game early in the second quarter due to a groin injury, with the Dockers slamming on 10 goals either side of half-time to secure a 53-point win, 18.5 (113) to 9.6 (60).
Thompson wasn’t sure whether it was the heat, illness or injuries that cruelled his side’s chances of victory.
But either way he wasn’t panicking, especially with Chapman, Fletcher, Myers and possibly Paddy Ryder due to return for Saturday night’s clash with St Kilda.
Goddard, who couldn’t overcome the groin tightness he felt during the warm-up, is also a chance to play.
“It’s not the end of the world,” Thompson said of Essendon’s second loss of the year.
“We’re not worried. We’re going to pull up tomorrow as if nothing has happened.
“It’s not about punishing (people) or being sad, it’s about moving forward.
“Overall I just had a bit of feeling about the week and it’s turned out that way.
“It was a pretty tough day. Especially for us pale-skinned Melburnians who don’t like the heat and don’t see much heat.”
The Bombers led by five points midway through the second quarter, but wilted in the hot conditions as Fremantle’s intense pressure took control.
Even the halftime loss of David Mundy to concussion couldn’t halt the Dockers, with skipper Matthew Pavlich (three goals), ruckman Aaron Sandilands (45 hitouts) and defender Luke McPharlin (31 possessions) standing tall.
Danyle Pearce, Stephen Hill and Hayden Ballantyne added polish through the midfield and up forward, while all-Australian defender Michael Johnson was also supreme.
Fremantle were embarrassed in last round’s 58-point loss to Hawthorn, but they regained their trademark hunger against the Bombers.
“I think the ground level was a lot more committed at the contest, a bit smarter how they went about it and they got the result they deserved,” Fremantle coach Ross Lyon said.
“But we are certainly not getting carried away with it.
“We are under no illusions that we didn’t quite play the Essendon that we expected to be playing.”
In the absence of Bombers ruckmen Ryder and Tom Bellchambers, Sandilands enjoyed a field day against makeshift ruck duo Jake Carlisle and Joe Daniher.
However, Sandilands faces a nervous wait after his high whack on Travis Colyer in a clumsy tackle attempt.