AFL Rd 1 - Essendon v Hawthorn
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 20: Dyson Heppell of the Bombers in action during the 2021 AFL Round 01 match between the Essendon Bombers and the Hawthorn Hawks at Marvel Stadium on March 20, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Essendon captain Dyson Heppell has returned serve on critics who were puzzled by Bombers players smiling at training throughout the week as they searched for their second win in eight games.

That victory came to fruition on Saturday night, with an undermanned Essendon outfit piling on eight goals in the last quarter against Hawthorn to win by 27 points at Marvel Stadium.

After collecting just the sole win in the opening seven rounds, continued questions were asked of the Bombers' finals credentials, and more recently their behaviour at training.

Speaking on Fox Footy earlier this week, St Kilda Great Nick Riewoldt drew attention to seeing "a lot of smiles" throughout training vision at Tullamarine, suggesting that can be "the worst thing you can do".

“I’ve been a part of groups where things haven’t been going well. You think, ‘let’s just go out there and have fun, and remember that it’s just a game,” Riewoldt said on Thursday.

“In my opinion, that’s actually the worst thing you can do, because we know the game is so hard to play.

“You’ve actually got to have honest conversations about the standards that you accept. Because too often this year with this group, we’ve seen — even senior players — not live up defensively to the standard that Ben Rutten would be setting.”

The comments placed greater attention on Ben Rutten's side as they prepared to face an in-form Hawthorn outfit that were on course to claim all four premiership points in the Round 8 fixture.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 07: Ben Hobbs of the Bombers celebrates after scoring a goal during the round eight AFL match between the Essendon Bombers and the Hawthorn Hawks at Marvel Stadium on May 07, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

With the Bombers having to make five late changes due to a bout of illness within the playing group, Rutten and Heppell had their backs to the wall before the first bounce.

Trailing by 15 points at the final break, the Bombers would stun Sam Mitchell's side as key forward Peter Wright booted six majors to give Essendon their second win of the year.

With several young Bombers playing a part in their first win with the club, the post-match celebrations were filled with elation, with Heppell having a clear message for those who questioned their attitude earlier in the week.

“Talk about smiling, anyone can jam it … for telling us to stop smiling,” Heppell said, via The Herald Sun.

“We came in and had a great environment in the rooms and produced a fantastic performance.

“I’m proud of the attitude that the boys have been sticking to over this whole period. There is a lot of outside noise but within the four walls, it’s just been an unbelievable environment for the circumstances we have been in.”

The Bombers will be hoping to string together a similar performance next week when they travel to the SCG to play Sydney in Round 9.