AFL: Essendon defender Michael Hurley says there's a feeling that everything is finally behind them as the club's banned players returned to action with victory over Hawthorn.
Hurley was one of six banned Bombers to play in the side's emotional win at the MCG and revealed he exchanged text messages with those now at other clubs on Saturday night.
Stewart Crameri, Paddy Ryder and Jake Melksham also returned from 12-month suspensions for other sides this weekend - recording victories with the Western Bulldogs, Port Adelaide and Melbourne respectively.
And they all got in touch with Hurley throughout round one to celebrate what was a weekend that will live long in the memory of every returning player.
"There's been a few text messages," Hurley told Fox Sports News' AFL Today.
"I spoke to Jake Melksham briefly yesterday before his game and Stewart before his, then getting back to the phone after the game last night I had a text from Paddy Ryder as well.
"There's that feeling among not only the guys from Essendon, but also the guys from the other clubs as well.
"Having got through last night and having the emotion of everything done, you can look forward to the rest of it now."
Hurley revealed he suffered from nerves heading into the week, as he was unsure what was to be expected as the players returned from year-long bans.
But he said all six of the club's returning stars played their roles in the 25-point win over a Hawks side that was favourite.
"All the boys managed to get through it pretty well," Hurley said. "A few of the guys were cramping late, but that was to be expected. We ran it out pretty well."
With an air of positivity now flowing through Essendon, Hurley said finals were on the agenda as the side sets its focus for the remainder of the year.
"You'd like to think so," Hurley said.
"Obviously it's a long season and we've only got through the one game so far. It's a long year and there's a bit of unknown as to how we're going to get through the season.
"We missed a fair chunk of last year, but I'd like to think so. We've got a young, developing team that can match it with the best teams, so hopefully it can happen."
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