Essendon players gather before the opening bounce of their NAB Cup clash against the Dogs
ESSENDON supporters have been the hidden victims of the drugs fiasco that enveloped the club 10 days ago.
Most are hardened, used to the ebb and flow of emotions that comes with following a team in the AFL. But this issue was different.
Hird proud of players and club
It shook people when Essendon went to the AFL and opened the club up to investigation.
Even those who turned up to see their team in round one of the NAB Cup admitted to being worried initially.
Click here to read how the Bombers beat the Dogs in round one of the NAB Cup
But Lance Court summed up the general feeling as he stood behind the goals, a well-worn sleeveless Essendon jumper donned – so to speak - for another season.
"I actually feel good now I'm here," Court said. "I expected all sorts of people yelling stuff but now it's here it's all about the football I think."
New recruit Brendon Goddard would echo those thoughts in a post-match interview forty minutes later.
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Despite the brave face the emotion was real.
Karen Moors was red and black through and through. Her voice quavered but her response was genuine and one many fans would understand.
"We're passionate. We're very upset about what has happened. It has reached us deep. People don't show emotionally, but when you are a passionate supporter it hits very hard and we feel so sorry for the boys." Moors said.
Her concern was that the club would be tarnished forever, a worry her friend, Jill Cathcart, was able to sum up brilliantly in one phrase.
"We're the Fine Cotton of football. People say Fine Cotton and think straight away … in years to come they will say Essendon and bring this up," Cathcart said. "We hold our head high and we are here for the boys and we have to come out in force and support them."
No one was hiding away.
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The suited club president David Evans walked through the crowd to sit on level one on the half-forward flank. The CEO behind him, Ian Robson, was in club colours and clapped when Tom Bellchambers kicked the first goal.
While coach James Hird was among his players he was in the hearts and minds of fans.
"He must be tearing his hair out," Court said.
It was his presence however that kept supporters such as Chris McCormack hopeful. He had turned up with his two children, one a Bomber, the other a Magpie, to show his support.
"We bleed red and black and we hope there is nothing to it and we have every faith in Hirdy that everything was done above board," McCormack said.
Faith. Hird inspires it.
Rhonda Pittock stood near the race and clapped her hands. "I've followed his career and I honestly, in my deepest heart of hearts, cannot believe that he would be a part of anything that would bring the club into disrepute, his dedication and love for Essendon is boundless and I think that is the thing that keeps me faithful," Pittock said.
There had been one loud boo when the team ran out but the cheers far outweighed those who wanted to criticise.
Les Gordon, a Collingwood supporter since 1952, summed up the feelings of most opposition barrackers.
"Being a Collingwood supporter, [I'm] bloody glad it is not us," Gordon said.