Essendon fans turned on coach Ben Rutten after the Bombers’ season went from bad to worse with a calamitous 10-point loss against West Coast at Optus Stadium in Perth.
The Eagles had lost nine in a row heading into Friday night but snapped the losing run with a 16.11 (107) to 14.13 (97) win inspired by Josh Kennedy’s five-goal haul.
The win lifted the 2-12 West Coast off the bottom of the ladder, while Essendon remained in 16th spot and slumped to a 3-11 record for the season. Last week’s shock win over St Kilda is a memory fading fast, while last season’s surprising finals appearance is long forgotten.
Ben Rutten is under increasing pressure after Essendon lost to West Coast on Friday night
Many Bombers fans placed the blame for another dismal showing firmly at Rutten’s feet and called for the coach to be relieved of his duties.
‘Time to go, Ben Rutten,’ a disgruntled fan tweeted, while another called him ‘a disgrace’ and another supporter blasted the Essendon coach for having a ‘dreadful gameplan’.
Another fan, meanwhile, wondered whether Rutten will still have a job by the time the Bombers land back in Melbourne.
Essendon fans called for Rutten to be fired after a dismal loss against West Coast
A particularly disgruntled Bombers fan described Rutten as a ‘disgrace’
Essendon fans blasted Rutten for a ‘dreadful gameplan’ in a ‘pathetic’ loss to the Eagles
One fan wondered whether Rutten will be fired by the time Essendon return to Melbourne
Some within the media struck a similar tone, with Nine Melbourne sports reporter Ayrton Woolley wondering whether the Bombers could convince former Hawthorn boss Alastair Clarkson to end his sabbatical earlier than planned.
‘Because of personnel changes, I did not have big expectations for Essendon this season,’ he tweeted
‘But if you were on the board […] if Clarko wants the job, do you offer it?’
Woolley’s Nine colleague replied: ‘Tell me you want Ben Rutten gone without telling me you want Ben Rutten gone…’
Nine Melbourne sports reporter Ayrton Woolley wondered whether the Bombers could convince former Hawthorn boss Alastair Clarkson to end his sabbatical earlier than planned
And plenty of Essendon fans appeared to agree with the idea of appointing Clarkson
Calling on the Bombers to make the coaching change as early as next week
Rutten is contracted until the end of 2023, but losing to a team that entered the match with a percentage of 52.2 is a bad look for the embattled coach.
To pile further misery on the Bombers, Friday night’s win was the first time in 26 matches West Coast had crashed through the 100-point barrier in a game.
Essendon won the inside 50m count (58-42) and clearances (37-30), but their inaccuracy at key moments cost them dearly.
‘It’s amazing that winning feeling. I haven’t felt it for a while,’ Kennedy, who kicked 5.0, told Fox Sports after the game.
Josh Kennedy was instrumental for the Eagles on Friday night, kicking five goals
The star forward said the Eagles wanted to ‘keep playing brave’ despite a dismal run of form
‘It was great to get a win for them [the fans]. We’ve been struggling. It was a bit of a shootout. We wanted to keep playing brave.
‘[The body] is pretty sore. I’ll keep chipping through. It’s just great seeing the kids come through and playing well.’
West Coast’s lack of pressure and horrible turnovers were telling in the opening term as Peter Wright and Jake Stringer booted two goals apiece.
Another ugly loss for the Eagles was brewing as the Bombers skipped out to a 22-point lead in the first quarter.
Rutten and the Bombers had no answers for an Eagles team that had lost nine straight
The Bombers remain marooned in 16th spot on the AFL ladder with a 3-11 record this season
But a moment of magic from Darling helped turn the tide.
Darling snared a one-handed mark in the goalsquare while on his knees to send the crowd wild, and the Eagles unleashed a six-goal blitz in the second term to take a shock five-point lead into half-time.
Rioli and Cripps booted two goals each in the second term, while Wright entered the break with a wayward 3.4 to his name.
The lead changed hands four times in a pulsating third term, but two goals to Liam Ryan gave West Coast a handy 11-point edge heading into the final change.
While West Coast got off the bottom of the ladder with their second win of the campaign
Ryan’s second goal – while being slung to the ground in a tackle – sent the 40,933 crowd wild.
Kennedy looked to have put the game to bed in the final term when he followed up a goal from a pack mark with another major from point-blank range, extending the margin to 22 points.
The Bombers sent a major scare with two goals in the space of a minute to close the gap to 10 points with two minutes remaining, but West Coast held firm from that point on.
Dylan Shiel racked up 26 disposals and nine clearances for Essendon, while forward Peter Wright booted 4.4 and Jake Stringer finished with three majors.