Essendon split their opening round of AFL’s NAB Cup, giving the club a welcome respite from their off-field nightmare.
Young Bomber Luke Davis was awarded a free kick after the final siren in their second mini-game against Collingwood, but his shot from outside 50m did not make the distance and the Magpies won by two points.
Collingwood kicked two late goals to overrun the Bombers 1.2.10 (31) to 0.4.5 (29).
Earlier in the evening, Essendon and Collingwood started their campaigns with wins over the Western Bulldogs.
There was plenty of applause for the Bombers as they took to the field at the start of the night, a welcome change from this month’s intense media scrutiny.
Essendon is under Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and AFL investigation because of supplements their players took last season.
The club was also implicated in the landmark Australian Crime Commission investigation into sport.
After beating the Bulldogs at the start of the night by 26 points, the Bombers led by a point at half-time against Collingwood.
They extended that to 13 points midway through the second half, with star recruit Brendon Goddard kicking his first goal.
But Andrew Krakouer soccered through a goal, and a free kick from close range meant Travis Cloke put Collingwood in front.
Star midfielder Scott Pendlebury and former Carlton defender Jordan Russell impressed for the Pies, while Dyson Heppell and Goddard were high in Essendon’s best.
Veteran defender Dustin Fletcher starred in game one as the Bombers beat the Dogs 1.5.6 (45) to 1.1.4 (19).
Collingwood kicked clear in the second half of their mini-game to beat the Dogs by three goals, 1.6.2 (47) to 0.4.5 (29).
Essendon coach James Hird said he was “so proud” of how his players had handled the past 10 days.
“They have shown a strength of character that not many people have and they have been resilient,” he said.
“They’ve been focused on their footy when I can imagine they just would have liked to focus on themselves.
“Tonight’s performance, with everything that’s going on in the background, I thought was terrific.”
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley said they were fortunate to win the second game and added it was difficult to adapt to the three-team format.
He revealed Nathan Brown pulled out of the first game after suffering a tight back in the warm-up, while Jarryd Blair also dropped out of the Essendon game at the last minute.
“We were able to get through it, but it’s a long way from a normal round of footy,” Buckley said.
He was impressed with Russell and their other recruits, such as Quinten Lynch (West Coast) and Clinton Young (Hawthorn).
“I don’t think we could have asked for more from our mature recruits,” Buckley said.