ESSENDON was "galvanised" by its challenging selection circumstances, with coach Ben Rutten saying the Bombers were full of pride after their comeback win over Hawthorn that followed five late changes through illness.
The Bombers overturned a 25-point deficit in the third term to run over the Hawks at Marvel Stadium, booting eight goals in the final term to clinch only their second win of the season.
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It came with the backdrop of drama, too, with the Bombers forced to make five pre-game changes due to illness that ran through the club this week, with a number of other players performing despite also still feeling the effects of the bug.
"The last 24 hours in particular I reckon there's some really nice stories out of there for the guys who came up and played. But not only them, the guys who pushed to the line and sometimes there's a fair bit of courage in making the call not to play as well," Rutten said.
"Especially when you know other guys are dropping around you, sometimes you feel like the best thing you can do is play but the guys made really clear, responsible and team-first decisions."
Rutten said he was driving to the ground when Sam Durham became the last player to pull out with illness – "It just hit him like a train," Rutten said – with the Bombers also having extra stand-by emergencies in case of more players being unavailable.
"There was a handful of others who were certainly underprepared and probably at the end of things [with the illness] but it still takes it out of you. That kind of adds to the pride that I'm feeling and we're feeling as a football club," he said.
The Bombers trailed for most of the night but maintained some reaching distance until their final-quarter onslaught, with Peter Wright booting six goals as he continues his career-best campaign. After being the subject of plenty of fierce criticism for their start to the season, the victory brings the Bombers to 2-6 – a position they made the finals from last year.
"We came together as a group and it certainly galvanised the group who was here today and there's injured players in the rooms afterwards so there's a really good feeling in there," Rutten said. "We've been really consistent and methodical about the way we've been reviewing training and working during the week so to be able to get the reward under pretty unique circumstances will be definitely good for the group."
Hawks counterpart Sam Mitchell said the warning signs were there well before the final quarter as his side couldn't do away the Bombers when they had the chance.
"We could never really put them away. We held onto a bit of a lead for a lot of the day but we just couldn't quite get far enough in front at any stage. We lost control of the game at different stages before that as well but were able to get it back, but obviously later in the game we just couldn't move the ball, we couldn't get it into our front end and when we did it bounced out far too easily," he said.
"There were worrying signs for a bit more of the day than just the last part."
Mitchell said Chad Wingard (illness) and Mitch Lewis (hamstring) should be available for next week's clash with Richmond as the Hawks look to break a three-game losing streak, but Changkuoth Jiath remains "unlikely" with his hamstring injury.