Essendon coach James Hird still believes the slumping Bombers can be an AFL finals force, insisting the spark is back even if Saturday's loss to North Melbourne didn't show it.
The 17.13 (115) to 9.16 (70) defeat at Etihad Stadium was Essendon's fourth straight loss by a big margin.
Hird admits he doesn't know how much to blame the form plunge on the relentless pressure of the supplements saga, or whether it's partly a repeat of Essendon's late-season drop-offs of the past two seasons.
But he said there was a ray of hope in the fact that while he, three other Bombers officials and the club itself were charged on Tuesday with bringing the game into disrepute, players weren't charged with anti-doping breaches.
"People would certainly say `Why are you confident?' because we don't look like we're playing that well and we haven't for the past four weeks," Hird told reporters.
"But we believe what happened during the week with the players being cleared, they've got some confidence.
"You could see the spark in their eyes had come back, you could see they were looking forward to playing today, which maybe they hadn't the last couple of weeks.
"I think that announcement on Tuesday may help them, not so much this week but as the weeks go on.
"So we're confident we can give a good showing in September."
Hird also said Saturday's effort was an improvement from his players, but their skill level couldn't match it, as they botched scoring chances and gave up cheap goals.
North's tall forwards Drew Petrie and Robbie Tarrant kicked three goals each, while the slick and classy Daniel Wells booted four and late inclusion Levi Greenwood amassed 38 disposals and five tackles.
The Kangaroos, who climbed to 9-11, can't make the eight, but as they trail ninth-placed Carlton by one win with a superior percentage, are still in the hunt if the Bombers are stripped of points and miss the finals.
Kangaroos coach Brad Scott was more focused on trying to claim the scalps of certain finalists Hawthorn and Collingwood over the remaining two rounds, which he admitted was a huge challenge given the clash those two sides produced on Friday night.
"But that's what we've been setting ourselves for this year, to play well against the best," he said.
"Largely we've played well against the best sides but we haven't beaten them often enough, so that's our challenge the next two weeks.
"Where that leaves us, who knows?"
Essendon lost Dyson Heppell to a foot tendon injury, but expect to regain Paddy Ryder, Michael Hurley and David Myers for next weekend's clash with Carlton.
The Kangaroos should regain Jack Ziebell (ankle) and Scott Thompson (soreness), both late withdrawals on Saturday.
Leigh Adams was subbed off with what the Roos believed was a minor knee lateral ligament injury.