Relieved Essendon coach John Worsfold said the Bombers should have taken advantage of their dominance in the first three quarters to set up an unassailable lead after being forced to desperately hang on in the final minutes and defeat Fremantle by six points.
The Bombers kicked five goals in the first quarter but could only manage four more for the match including just one in a desperate last term as the Dockers charged.
Worsfold said the inclusion of Tom Bellchambers and Jake Stringer, after both missed the final Marsh Series match, and the absence of Shaun McKernan meant the Bombers expected to show signs of being rusty so he was glad to get away with the win.
“Overall we saw some really good understanding of what we are trying to do but it’s not perfect, we understand that as well,” Worsfold said.
He said despite the absence of key forwards, the Bombers competed well in the air and looked dangerous when the ball hit the ground.
Irish-born defender Conor McKenna did not play as he was underdone after he missed a chunk of pre-season when he returned to Ireland to visit family but is expected back soon.
However, Worsfold revealed the 23-year-old was unlikely to get his wish to play forward – at least initially.
“He thinks he can impact the game as a forward but he also understands that he finished high up in our best and fairest as a backman and he has become a damaging backman,” Worsfold said.
“That is what we think we need in terms of depth at the moment because we have got a few injuries to a few of our backs. We need Conor. We feel he is more likely to be needed as a defender for us at the moment but that could change.
“At the moment we still feel he is in our best team as a defender.”
Worsfold said he expected Cale Hooker, James Stewart and McKernan to be available for selection next Friday night, with the Bombers set to play Sydney at the SCG if the season continues as planned.
Meanwhile, disappointed Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir said he was upset at the poor start his team made as they conceded the first four goals to their opponents.
“We don’t want to be a team that has to chase from behind and have honourable losses. I was so proud of them for coming back but so disappointed in them for starting the way they did,” Longmuir said.
He said it was a collective responsibility, however, and the coaches would need to examine the way they prepared for the match and the mindset they had the players in when the ball bounced.
Longmuir would not blame the unusual circumstances for their tardy start, saying everyone was dealing with the same issue so it was no excuse.
“It was a bit of a ride in the box because we could have won it late but we don’t want to be in those situations,” Longmuir said.
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