Essendon players have come under fire for laughing during their 66-point thrashing at the hands of Geelong on Sunday.
The Cats piled on 75 points to 16 in the first half before outscoring he Bombers 5.3 to 3.8 in the second half.
Down by 59 points at the main break, Essendon came out of the rooms and before the ball was bounced to start the third quarter, gathered in a huddle and shared a laugh.
Hawthorn legend Shane Crawford wasn’t impressed.
“It’s not a good look,” Crawford told Wide World of Sports’ Full Time. “Imagine throwing that picture out to Instagram or Twitter and asking all the supporters, ‘What is going on?’.
“The thing that I don’t like when sides lose, especially in really important games, you see players with big smiles on their faces interacting with opposition players at the end.
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“Obviously, here they’re having a bit of fun in some way trying to get themselves sparked up to get back into the match. But you’ve got to understand they were playing for a finals spot.
“I’m sure at the moment with the way things are in Victoria and all the Essendon supporters watching this, they wouldn’t be happy. It’s not a good look.
“When you’re getting a whack like that, you can’t be seen having a lot of fun out on the footy field. It just doesn’t work like that.
“I don’t think it’s going to go to well in the football world … especially at halftime when they were slaughtered by the Cats.”
Teammates and even opponents laughing together on the field has become more common in recent seasons, with Richmond’s Jack Higgins having his teammates in stitches with his halftime rev-ups and Hawthorn players criticised for joking with West Coast opponents last month.
While Essendon is still a mathematical chance of making the top eight by winning its final two games if other results go its way, the demoralising loss to Geelong means in all likelihood it will be heading home from Queensland early and watching the finals on TV.
The Dons haven’t won a final since 2004 but coach John Worsfold was optimistic about the future, confident the group would “grow pretty quickly” with more time together.
“There’s a gap (between Essendon and the top teams) that’s not going to take years to close, we’ll be able to close it once we get a bit more cohesion,” Worsfold said.
“This is a new style of footy that they’re learning and if they commit to it and work hard at it over the full pre-season again, the improvement will close the gap dramatically.”
But Essendon legend Tim Watson wasn’t buying that message of hope
“For me, having watched Essendon closely and not withstanding the challenges John had when he first arrived there, they’re just not a competitive enough side,” Watson said on SEN Breakfast.
“Essendon don’t have an established baseline of contested football. You go back to John’s whole period of time there as a coach, they haven’t been able to establish that.
“What I’m most surprised about is Essendon’s lack of personality. I thought what you would get in essence when he became coach was, because we saw the way that he played, that there would be some aggression and an uncompromising unit.
“They’ve been anything but hard to play against over that period of time.”
Watson said Worsfold’s “greatest failure as coach” since he took over in 2016 was an inability to establish any semblance of consistency.
“For whatever reason in a period of time Essendon hasn’t been able to establish that (consistency) and that is the baseline as far as I’m concerned when you play this game of football,” Watson said.
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“You’ve got to be able to turn up and play and compete and have players that are capable of making the right decisions around the ball.
“If you watched that game against Geelong yesterday, Geelong instinctively come off their man at the right time to outnumber the opposition at the ball … that’s what you do as a team.
“I’m not seeing that in the way that Essendon play and I can’t believe this is so complicated, this game plan is so complicated that they can’t get the players to understand what the players are required to do when they go out there and play.”
Essendon is 11th on the ladder with six wins from 14 games and plays ladder-leading Port Adelaide and Melbourne to finish off the season.