A TUMULTUOUS week took its toll, but interim Essendon coach Matthew Egan has lauded his team's effort against Gold Coast on Saturday night.
Egan said he encouraged his players to enjoy the game and play with freedom against the Suns, and would be calling for more of the same in the final two weeks against Richmond and Collingwood.
The Bombers lost by two points and could have snatched victory if a Jake Carlisle snap as the siren sounded hadn't have sprayed to the right for a behind.
But Egan, coaching his first game after James Hird resigned on Tuesday, could not have been happier with the performance.
He said Hird's departure had been an emotional moment that was felt throughout the club.
"It's taken a big toll early in the week," Egan said.
"You could see a few players struggled early in the game, but as the game went on I felt like their effort brought them back into the game.
"It's pretty hard to put into words, but I felt like they kept playing. We talk about that a fair bit - don't drop your head and keep playing the game and I thought the second half they did that."
The Bombers trailed for much of the night and conceded 61 inside 50s to 50, but refused to give up.
It was a far cry from recent performances that included 87 and 112-point hidings from the Western Bulldogs and Adelaide in the previous three weeks.
"The effort was outstanding," Egan said.
"You could see how disappointed the players were after the game.
"We've fallen away a lot in second halves this year and I think we held our nerve really well in the second half."
Egan said he enjoyed his stint in the coaching box and would urge his players to continue enjoying their footy over the final fortnight, in which the Dons will face Richmond and Collingwood.
But he won't be making it easy.
"We're going to drive the next two weeks really hard," Egan said.
"It's really important we don't drop off. We've been pretty disappointing the last six to eight weeks, and we want to finish off really strong.
"We're going to train them super hard.
"Keep the freedom in attack and let them play the game and play on instinct, and hopefully tidy up a few errors."