Essendon players leave the field after their loss to Port Adelaide in round four, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

ESSENDON coach Brad Scott says his midfield received a "wake-up call" in the Bombers' belting from Port Adelaide, as the club grapples with a plague of soft-tissue injuries.

The Bombers were comprehensively beaten by the Power on Friday night by 69 points, with Port trio Connor Rozee (36 disposals, three goals), Jason Horne-Francis (31 disposals) and Zak Butters (26) dominant.

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After Essendon's win over St Kilda last week and a solid performance against Sydney on the road in round two, the drop off brought to the fore the Bombers' struggle with consistency and their room for improvement after being a strong midfield unit to begin the year. 

"In the end it's a good wake-up call for our guys. It's been a strength to our game, we're only four games in but it's been a strength for us," Scott said post-game. 

"Sometimes it's a perfect storm and whatever we changed made it worse. We were beaten on the inside and we held outside then we held outside and it flipped – we got beaten inside and outside and that's a real credit to [Port]. Rozee and Horne-Francis were totally dominant in that part of the game and around the ground. 

"They were clearly the two dominant players on the ground. It certainly wasn't through a lack of change of match-ups – we threw them around and whatever we threw at them they were good enough to beat them. That's a disappointing part of the game but that's the difference right at the moment between the two sides. We showed for a quarter we can match them in that space but the game goes for four quarters, not one."


The Bombers also lost Archie Perkins to a hamstring injury in the second half, with defender Jordan Ridley suffering a recurrence of his quad injury at training and set to miss a chunk of games. 

The pair are among a group of Bombers who have had soft-tissue injuries in the past two months, including Darcy Parish (hamstring), Zach Reid (hamstring) and Matt Guelfi (calf), with Scott saying the club would investigate the spate of concerns.


"It's hard to sit here and say no, [there isn't an issue]. We just have to go and be really diligent in assessing what's happening there. Like all AFL clubs we run a really thorough medical program but at the moment we're being hurt by some soft tissues," Scott said. 

"In a full contact sport there are some unavoidable injuries, but you'd like to think the soft-tissue ones are the ones you can do something about so we'll need to go to work on that."


Port counterpart Ken Hinkley praised his midfield for its commanding showing, saying Rozee's first-half performance – when he had 20 disposals and kicked three goals – was a new level for the two-time All-Australian.

"I've seen him play some pretty good games already but not that good – not in the first half particularly. It was outrageous what he was doing. He's a great young captain," Hinkley said.

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"We're really clear that leadership is about performance on gameday and that's something that Connor and Zak and the rest of the leadership group – (Willem) Drew, (Dan) Houston, 'Pep' (Sam Powell-Pepper) – have really taken on board. That's their critical moment on gameday and they're growing into leadership away from those days." 


The win sees the Power move to 3-1, with their only defeat so far this season coming against an in-form Melbourne last week, with the return of Mitch Georgiades adding to Port's forward mix. Next week, Powell-Pepper will also be available after serving his four-match suspension from the pre-season, with Hinkley confident Georgiades can bring a different element to their attack. 

"He's got great running power and top-end speed. Clearly he can mark it and finish so if he can play a high forward role for us a little bit more we've got great flexibility then and we'll have a little bit of a challenge next week when we've got to bring 'Pep' back in," he said.