Essendon farewelled Brendon Goddard and blasted Port Adelaide out of AFL finals contention on Friday night with a 22-point win.
The Bombers’ 17.9 (111) to 13.11 (89) victory at Adelaide Oval settles this season’s finalists ahead of the weekend’s games.
Port were long-shots to sneak into the playoffs, needing to beat Essendon and then hope lowly Gold Coast upset Geelong on Saturday.
But the Power’s meek opening quarter ensured the Cats are now safe regardless of their outcome.
Essendon stunned Port with a first-term onslaught, booting six goals to one to lead by 33 points at quarter-time.
Jayden Laverde slotted three goals in the Bombers’ blitz: the visitors had the first 10 inside 50s and didn’t allow Port inside their attacking 50m arc until the 12th minute.
“That is how we want to play,” Essendon coach John Worsfold said.
“It was a confirmation of the hard work we have been putting in throughout the whole year … and more learning about the capabilities of us as a team.”
Port were woken from their slumber by a heated spray from coach Ken Hinkley at quarter-time and responded with four consecutive goals to creep within seven points – it was the nearest they got.
The Bombers rapidly restored their lead with the next three goals in a four-minute span to take a 25-point lead at the main break.
Essendon lost ruckman Matthew Leuenberger to a calf injury but increased their lead to 37 points at three quarter-time.
Port boss Hinkley unleashed another tirade at the break and Port again belatedly rallied with three unanswered goals to get within 17 points with 10 minutes to go.
But the Bombers held their collective nerve to finish with 12 wins and 10 losses.
Port also end with a 12-10 win-loss record – an alarming slide from being 11-4.
“We’re really disappointed,” Power coach Ken Hinkley said.
We just weren’t up early for the speed of Essendon and their willingness to win it around the ball.”
The Power couldn’t control influential Bombers Devon Smith (29 touches, 13 tackles), Dyson Heppell (26 disposals, two goals), Zach Merrett (29 disposals) and Darcy Parish (22 touches).
Brendon Goddard gathered 27 possessions in his 344th AFL game and last for the club – it’s still unknown whether the 33-year-old will seek to play on elsewhere.
Port’s Jared Polec completed his sterling season with 30 disposals in what could be his last match for the club – the winger is tipped to accept a multimillion dollar long-term contract offer from North Melbourne.
Teammate Justin Westhoff was outstanding with five goals and Chad Wingard (32 possessions) was another bright spot on a glum night for the Power.