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Essendon Bombers young gun Darcy Parish has come under fire after blowing up at several of his teammates, including captain Dyson Heppell, during last weekend's loss to Port Adelaide.
Mired in a dreadful 2-9 season after last year's promising campaign, the Bombers have been beset by criticism as the team has thus far fallen short of the the pre-season hype.
An inaccurate display in front of goal cost the Bombers dearly in Sunday's 9.12.66 to 6.14.50 loss, particularly the first quarter, where Essendon could only muster six behinds.
It was during the quarter time break that Parish's frustrations boiled over.
The 24-year-old could be seen in furious conversation with a number of teammates as they headed to the quarter-time huddle, with Heppell moving in to calm the talented midfielder down.
Parish's remonstrations left commentators divided, with former AFL player Ben Dixon critical of the Bombers star for walking away from his captain.
“I hate this. I hate … the fact Darcy Parish is blowing up, he’s trying to give some instructions,” Dixon said on Fox Footy’s First Crack.
“The captain is trying to talk to him … he’s walking away. Don’t do that.
“I don’t mind getting vocal on the footy field and working through it, but Dyson is still talking. He’s just gone ‘Nup, not listening’.
“Just sit there and solve it. because if you don’t solve it, it’s going to bubble away for the rest of the game.
“If he’s blowing up about (the team’s organisation), just sit there and work it out.”
Dyson Heppell and Darcy Parish share a stern exchange 😬
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It was speculated that a defensive miscommunication was what lead to Parish's frustration boiling over, which fellow former AFL star David King pointed out had been an issue for the Bombers all season.
Former St Kilda midfielder Leigh Montagna was more sympathetic to Parish, saying it wasn't uncommon for players to show some frustration in the huddle.
He did caution, however, that doing so requrired a high degree of trust from teammates.
“The great teams do this — deal with issues in game. That’s what good teams do, you don’t wait until Monday in the review,” Montagna said..
“I like the passion from Parish. It shows he cares.
“He’s frustrated – I get that.
“As long as everyone can handle it … I think those situations are normal for teams.”
Bombers fall short as Port Adelaide's fightback continues
While the Bombers fell agonisingly short of a third win for the season, Port Adelaide managed to keep their finals hopes alive.
After losing their first five games of the season, the Power have rallied to a 5-6 record that would be the envy of Bomber fans.
Head coach Ben Rutten admitted the Bombers were already counting the cost of a bruising season so far.
And there's no respite after the mid-season break: Essendon meet four top-eight teams in their next five rounds.
"There is certainly a level of disappointment and frustration," Rutten said after a 16-point loss to Port Adelaide on Sunday.
"We are not where we want to be as a group, there's no doubt about that.
"The guys are hurting because of that."
Rutten said he would use the bye to ponder just what had gone wrong, and the path forward, for a club many pundits tipped as finalists.
"We will certainly take a bit of time to digest the first half of the season," he said.
"And certainly have a look across the board about how we have been tracking and what that looks like moving forward.
"There has been some growth amongst our group individually.
"We probably haven't quite had the cohesion and the chemistry and continuity of our squad, that has been something we have wrestled with most weeks in terms of ins and outs and availability."
Rutten suggested it would be back to basics rather than wholesale changes in the second half of the season.
"It's building a really strong consistent brand around the contest, continuing to build our fundamentals," he said.
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