The threat of doping bans after the issuing of show cause notices had nothing to do with Essendon’s loss and the players hated that outsiders would use it as an excuse for their defeat, Bombers midfielder David Zaharakis said.
After the Dons gave up a 33-point lead, turned the ball over routinely, and missed multiple easy set shots to go down by a point to the Demons at the MCG, Zaharakis said the players were angry people would use the doping investigation and show cause notices as an reason for their bad play.
“We hate that people use it as an excuse,” said Zaharakis, who booted four goals and almost snatched victory back for the Bombers with two late goals.
“Us as footy players do not use this as an excuse so we hate the media using it and we want people to know that we don’t think about it as an excuse.”
Zaharakis said he knew people watched the Melbourne game to see how his club responded and people would now wrongly conclude after one defeat that this season might tail off like last year.
Zaharakis was not among the players to receive show-cause notices, having not taken part in the injection regime at the club in 2012, but he said this was irrelevant.
“It’s not just coming from me," he said. “It’s the boys during the week. We hate people talking about it, not just me all the other 46 guys on the list don’t use it as an excuse. We are here to play footy and when we lose its because we are not playing good footy.
“(Coach Mark Thompson said) we have to become a stronger club, stronger culture at the club to have more leaders out on the field and not let teams back in games when we are up."
Thompson kept the players in their meeting room for more than 45 minutes after the game, describing it as “just a general chat about the game” in which Essendon had 33 more inside-50s than Melbourne and won almost every statistical category.
He was disappointed with the players’ willingness to let themselves and each other drift away from the game plan and said they needed to become more predictable to each other, but was also adamant that the week’s events could not be used an excuse given how long the ASADA investigation had been going.
The Bombers also had to deal with the loss of captain Jobe Watson, who had surgery on a hip tendon and might miss the rest of the season, and withdrew Dustin Fletcher before the game because of back soreness.
“I haven’t talked about it and I don’t think it should be a factor. We’ve lived with it for two years so it’s just another week at the office really,” Thompson said.
“If you talk about it people can use it as an excuse, but it’s not an excuse in our eyes, in my eyes. We’ve lived with this so we know.
“It was a bit worse than other weeks we’ve had recently but we’ve been smashed for two years now so it’s not as if they came out today and just couldn’t play because of the week they’ve had. Come on; we can’t accept that.
"I don't think we stuck to the game plan for long enough tonight. If you don't stick to it you've got no chance, because you've got a whole group doing what they want. That's what happened tonight.
"They know. You can do all the talk, all the reviews, we can treat them, train them, everything. In the end, if they let themselves continue to do it then they'll play the same way and we'll do it for a long time."