ESSENDON'S no-ruckman plan backfired on Saturday against West Coast, coach James Hird concedes.
The Essendon reserves team had two recognised ruckmen – Tom Bellchambers and Jonathan Giles – as well as pinch-hitting tall forward Shaun McKernan in the team that played Frankston, while the senior team was belted in the ruck in Perth.
Jake Carlisle and youngster Joe Daniher were smashed 16-1 in the centre hit-outs, lost the overall hit-out count 28-73 and the Eagles snatched a decisive 51-37 clearance advantage in the 14.12 (96) to 6.10 (46) result.
And Essendon failed to get even one goal from their two best key forwards.
"We knew we had a struggle against us without a recognised ruckman … in the end 16 to 1 (centre hit-outs) was just too far out of whack to compete in that area," Hird said.
"(But) we didn't have any other option, the way Tommy (Bellchambers) was playing wasn't really acceptable. So that was our option and sometimes you don't have options and you go with what you've got."
Hird was pleased to see the trio of big Bombers do well in the reserves but was unrepentant about the decision to go in without a ruckman.
"McKernan kicked five in the reserves today, Tommy kicked four and Jonathan Giles kicked three and we definitely won the tap-outs. But it's a different story against Frankston in the VFL than it is against Naitanui over here at Subiaco," Hird said.
"We certainly hope he (Bellchambers) gets the message, it's not the message, it's not about punishing a player, it's about getting a player back into form and working at a certain level until they are ready to play."
However, Hird was happy with what he said was an improved attack on the contest from the Bombers after their round-10 shellacking by Geelong.
"Compared to last week the effort, intensity and even enthusiasm was a lot better. We wanted to come over here and give a good effort and I think we did," Hird said.
"We tackled well, our pressure was good, in the first half of every quarter we were doing well in the clearances and also in the contested football but we just seemed to drop away in the back half of quarters. And the first three minutes of the last quarter (when the Eagles slammed on three goals) really hurt us."
Hird admitted the bye had come at an opportune time for the beleaguered club.
"It's been a long first half of the year and it's been a long couple of years so I think the players need a break," he said.
Hird said he wanted the Bombers to continue to show great effort and improve their ball use in the last half of the season.
He said Heath Hocking and David Myers would be ready to return from injury after the break.