ESSENDON players are backing coach James Hird to the hilt, as the team flew back into Melbourne - and back into controversy, after a morale boosting four-point win over Fremantle in Perth.
Hird didn’t travel with his players. He returned home on an overnight red-eye flight, and opted not to go to watch the Bombers VFL team play at Windy Hill as initially planned.
There have been calls from some parts of the AFL world for the Essendon coach to stand down
amid further allegations in the supplements scandal.
But Hird’s players say he is critical to continued on-field success in the face of the unprecedented crisis.
"He's got the support of every single player on our list," defender Heath Hocking said at Tullamarine late on Saturday.
"We come to the club and we want to get better, he's someone who helps us do that and we're there behind him every step of the way.
"He's got a great character, it's been pretty tough on him but he's put it aside and he's focused on us as players and the club.
"We're looking after him and he's looking after us."
It’s expected ASADA investigators will interview Hird next week, while former Telstra boss Ziggy Switkowski is understood to be just weeks away
from handing his report into club governance, processes and procedures to the Bombers board.
Hocking agreed the club felt like it was caught up in an 'us versus them' sort of mentality at the moment.
"The main message is just be with your teammates because they're the only ones that know what we're going through."
"It's been a tough couple of days, on top of a tough couple of months.
"We made sure we were all together and we got around each other and that's what counts at the moment.
"We're working together, working through the processes and just trying to do what we can control, and that's playing football and training hard.
"What you have to think about is you can only control what you can control, and playing football is what we're paid to do."
Michael Hurley arrived home with a heavily bandaged right wrist, he's expected to have scans on Monday.
Despite the crisis engulfing the club the Bombers remain undefeated after three games. They play St Kilda at Etihad Stadium next Saturday.
Matt Thompson is a reporter for AFL Media. Follow him on Twitter @MattThompsonAFL