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Veterans lead charge as Dons dispatch flat Roos

Highlights: North Melbourne v Essendon The Roos and Bombers clash in round 1
Brendon Goddard of the Bombers celebrates a goal during the 2014 AFL round 01 match between the North Melbourne Kangaroos and the Essendon Bombers at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne on March 21, 2014. (Photo: Lachlan Cunningham/AFL Media)
Bomber Brendon Goddard kicked three goals in a dominant performance

ESSENDON has put aside the distraction of yet another off-field controversy to get its 2014 season off to a fast start with a comprehensive 39-point thumping of a lacklustre North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium on Friday night.

On a day when Essendon's board met to consider the future of suspended coach James Hird after his wife Tania reignited the supplements saga, Mark Thompson's team gave Bombers fans an enticing taste of what they could achieve in 2014.


The Roos held possession of the ball more than any other team last season (5.3 per cent), but the Bombers beat them at their own game on Friday night in their 15.9 (99) to 9.6 (60) win.

Five talking points: North Melbourne v Essendon


Cutting the Roos apart with precision short passes through the middle of the ground, Essendon hit targets in the open way too often for the liking of a team whose No.1 pre-season focus was improving its defence.


The Bombers' almost complete control of general play was illustrated by their dominance of possessions (449-291), marks (159-73), clearances (52-30) and stoppages (35-21).


Jobe Watson ensured Dustin Fletcher's club record 379th game would be an enjoyable one, racking up 38 possessions, including 25 in the first half, to be the dominant player on the ground.


Paul Chapman also made sure former Geelong mentor Thompson's return to senior coaching was a successful one, kicking four goals and pumping the ball inside the Bombers' forward 50 an equal game-high eight times in his first game in the black and red. 


Brendon Goddard, Dyson Heppell and Jackson Merrett were important for the Bombers around the ground, Cale Hooker and Michael Hurley impassable in defence and Joe Daniher gave some glimpses of the pack marking Bombers fans can expect to see over the next decade.

Thompson said after the match he could not have been more pleased with his team's performance.


"We played a good, strong first game of the year. It looked like we were doing things we were practising and they were carrying it out, so we're pretty pleased with the performance overall," Thompson said.


Thompson said Essendon had told its players to ignore the controversy that had erupted after Tania Hird's television interview on the ABC on Thursday night.


"We told all our players not to even go there. It's not the right time, we've got a game on, and I wanted all my players, all my staff, just to concentrate on the game," Thompson said.


"We'll let the committee and the board deal with that when they do."


It was a dirty night for the Roos, one that ensured Brad Scott remains winless in round one games since he took over at the Roos in 2010.


North had been hyped as a top-four contender for much of the off-season, but struggled to find the ball against the Bombers and, even they did, their ball use was sloppy, particularly going inside their forward 50.

Scott said post-match the Roos simply hadn't been able to get their hands on the ball.


"It was a miracle we got the game back pretty much at level pegging in the second quarter because we were just being outplayed and outhunted, so it's bitterly disappointing from that perspective," Scott said.


"I can't think of a game ever in my time that we've been beaten by almost 50 in contested possessions and that's just so unlike the group we've got, so that came as a complete shock to me.


"I never would have predicted that would have been our challenge and we've got a short amount of time to rectify it."


The Roos ran out at the start of the game to jets of electric blue smoke, but they were perhaps the biggest shots they fired all night.


Lindsay Thomas was the Roos' only winner on the night, the small forward bagging four goals and a couple of speccys, while Jamie Macmillan and veteran Brent Harvey at least battled hard.


To make matters worse for North, ruckman Todd Goldstein suffered a corked left shoulder after copping a knock in a ruck contest midway through the first quarter.

Kangaroo Scott Thompson is caught in a lunging Joe Daniher tackle. Picture: AFL Media

NORTH MELBOURNE        3.0   5.3      8.5    9.6    (60)                  

ESSENDON                         4.1   8.5    11.8   15.9   (99)          



North Melbourne: Thomas 4, Black, Dal Santo, Harvey, McKenzie, Wright

Essendon: Chapman 4, Goddard 3, Hardingham 2, Daniher 2, Watson 2, Howlett, Ryder



North Melbourne: Thomas, Macmillan, Harvey, Cunnington, Mullett

Essendon: Watson, Chapman, Goddard, Heppell, Zaharakis, J.Merrett, Hooker



North Melbourne: Goldstein (shoulder), Cunnington (concussion)

Essendon: Nil



North Melbourne: Leigh Adams replaced Scott McMahon in the fourth quarter

Essendon: Zach Merrett replaced Martin Gleeson in the third quarter


Reports: Nil


Umpires: Dalgleish, Mitchell, Mollison


Official crowd: 42,332 at Etihad Stadium

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs