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Worsfold praises 'courage' of his young charges

Worsfold: 'It's a big day' John Worsfold lauds the courage and maturity of his side in its first victory since round two
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 14: Acting captain Zach Merrett of the Bombers in action during the 2016 AFL Round 21 match between the Essendon Bombers and the Gold Coast Suns at Etihad Stadium on August 14, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media)
Acting captain Zach Merrett in action against the Suns
For the youth to step up and have the courage to take the game on like they did today, that's what really stands out for us
John Worsfold

ESSENDON coach John Worsfold has praised the courage and determination of his young playing group following the Bombers' shock win over Gold Coast on Sunday.

The Bombers led the Suns for most of the first half, but a three-goals-to-one third term saw the visitors take a seven-point lead into the final break, and it appeared as though Gold Coast might run out the game.

But Essendon managed to turn the tide once again, with midfielder David Zaharakis and acting captain Zach Merrett leading the charge in the middle in the absence of Brendon Goddard.

The Bombers kicked three goals to start the final term, with the lacklustre and inaccurate Suns able to respond.  

Watch John Worsfold's full media conference

Worsfold's men ended a 17-game losing streak, the longest in Essendon's history, to record just their second win for the season.

"You can't underestimate how tough it was to win that game," the coach said after the victory.

"Not only for the stage of the year we're at but we had our captain, our vice-captain out injured. So for the youth to step up and have the courage to take the game on like they did today, that's what really stands out for us.

"Our supporters have just been awesome. They knew it was going to be a tough year, and probably didn't come here expecting a win, but I hope they enjoyed that and lap that up.

"That was a really important win in terms of showing that this playing group has a really strong attitude in fighting games out no matter where they're at."

The Bombers have now beaten Melbourne and Gold Coast, and while they still sit on the bottom of the ladder, they have two wins more than most people expected.

Worsfold admitted a victory so late in the season was an added bonus, with young sides generally fatiguing at this stage of the year. 

"It's a massive pat on the back for our conditioning staff and for our players in the way that they prepare themselves physically and mentally to play out the season," he said.

"It was a high risk for us; we've had a lot of players we've had to manage over the year, so I think the team has worked in terms of getting the players still able to run out games strongly at this time of year is very good."

Aside from the outstanding performances of Zaharakis (40 disposals) and Merrett (38 disposals), Worsfold also praised the effort of the Bombers' defensive unit.

Patrick Ambrose had the tough job of quelling the influence of Suns forward Tom Lynch, and did it superbly, limiting him to two goals, while Michael Hartley battled on bravely after suffering a suspected broken nose in the second term.

The Bombers face the Western Bulldogs next Sunday, before finishing off the season against arch-rival Carlton the following week.