Essendon have set aside a24 tumultuous hours and honoured Dustin Fletcher’s milestone with a stirring 39-point AFL win over North Melbourne.
Conversely, the convincing 15.9 (99) to 9.6 (60) win on Friday night at Etihad Stadium puts a harsh spotlight on the Kangaroos, who have been bullish about their ambitions this season.
Essendon were outstanding in their resilience and simply out-worked North, who fell away sharply in the last quarter.
The only downside for the Bombers was an ankle injury in the last term to star recruit Paul Chapman.
But the former Cat, who kicked four goals in his Essendon debut, did not appear too badly hurt.
As the Essendon players did so often last season, they ignored a major off-field distraction to dominate North.
This time it was a TV interview aired on Thursday night, where James Hird’s wife Tania blasted the AFL.
The Bombers will talk to their suspended coach next week about the issue.
It was the last thing they needed on the eve of their season-opening game.
Fletcher played his 379th game, breaking the club record and moving to outright fourth in AFL history.
He was solid as usual in defence.
Other senior players, especially Chapman, captain Jobe Watson and Brendon Goddard, led superbly as Essendon jumped North.
Essendon stunned the ‘Roos with a four-goal burst in the opening 12 minutes.
North hit the lead briefly in the second term, but Essendon quickly regained control and led by 21 points at three-quarter time
The result was sealed early in the last term when Sam Gibson’s short pass back into play went straight to Essendon opponent Jake Carlisle.
Watson goaled seconds later for a 27-point lead.
The one North player who stood out on a poor night was small forward Lindsay Thomas, who produced several game highlights with his four goals.
Adding to the Kangaroos’ woes, Todd Goldstein hurt his left shoulder in the first quarter and while he battled on, the ruckman clearly struggled with the injury for the rest of the game.
North midfielder Ben Cunnington was forced off the field in the third quarter after a heavy collision, but he returned for the last term.