IT WAS "weird".
Essendon coach John Worsfold says no one really knew how to feel in the rooms prior to Thursday night's pre-season clash with Collingwood, but he was pleased with what unfolded once they were out there.
Nathan Buckley, meanwhile, was lamenting the first injury of the season.
The Bombers were welcoming back six of the players that were banned last season - including new skipper Dyson Heppell and his predecessor Jobe Watson - and the emotion was palpable.
"(It was) a really good hitout," he said.
"Really pleased to get the boys up and about. It was another step in where we want to get to. Considering everything, I was really pleased with how the boys who haven't played for a long time came out and played.
"I'll use Jobe's (Watson's) word - it was weird (the feeling).
"We don't get too wound up about the game but it was a different game. How we were meant to feel ... no one really knew.
"I thought they were all good."
Worsfold said how pleasing it was to have the players back after the bans wasn't lost on him.
"It's great on so many levels."
Michael Hurley didn't take part in the game after half-time and was spotted with ice on his ankle.
"He wanted to play another 10 minutes. I said 'no'," Worsfold said.
Collingwood held on to run out 11-point winners at Etihad Stadium.
The Magpies trailed by 23 points at three-quarter-time but came out surging in the final stanza, booting four straight majors - including two supergoals - to steal back the lead.
GWS reject Tom Phillips was instrumental for the Magpies, racking up 24 touches, while Jordan de Goey, Jack Crisp and Will Hoskin-Elliott all slotted two goals.
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley was pleased with his side's showing but knows there is still a long way to go until round one.
Most disappointing for him was losing luckless Ben Sinclair to what is feared to be a serious hamstring injury.
"We would have liked to get out of it injury-free, but there is plenty to go back on and keep refining," Buckley said.
He confirmed that the players that were rested last night - including skipper Scott Pendlebury - "will play the next two".
"We need to get that back-to-back callousing and resilience to be ready for that early part in the season."
Buckley also revealed that swingman Ben Reid and recruit Daniel Wells both played in a VFL practice match on Wednesday with Wells receiving a "kick" to the calf.
He will train this week "and continue his step up in the work rate and load", Buckley said.