Classy Essendon midfielder Dylan Shiel is making strides in his bid to be available early on in the season.

The 30-year-old played 12 games in 2023 and was starting sub for his final two games of the season in rounds 16 and 17 after being troubled on and off by the issue.

While he hasn't put a definitive return date on his return, Shiel says his foot is improving weekly.

"It's getting better every week, which is good. It's been a slow journey over this pre-season, but fortunately I'm making some good ground," Shiel said. 

"It's probably too soon to be rolling out and playing just yet. We haven't got a hard time on it yet, we're making sure I can get the foot right, get the body OK, so then when I declare myself fit to play, I'm ready to perform.  

"If that's a practice game, round one, great. And if it's not, we'll just take it as it is." 


Shiel has completed specialised training to help strengthen and protect his foot, and while he hasn't had to drastically change his footwear choices, orthotics have been added to the mix.

Foot injuries also affect running loads, and while Shiel utilised the weight-bearing AlterG treadmill, he has missed a chunk of full pre-season training in an attempt to not overload the area.

"[I've been] working on the intrinsic muscles of the foot to make sure certain parts of the foot aren't being exposed," Shiel said. 

"I've been doing a mountain of work that doesn't get me too much credibility in the gym with how much weight I've been shifting [but] it's important work that I'm doing.

"You can't run on your hands I've discovered, so you can't avoid the feet. They're a delicate part of the body, and you need to be really listening to the experts on how to come back. 

"Managing how often you can train per week, make sure you have the right footwear in place, making sure you're not walking your dog for two hours on your day off is pretty helpful as well. But I've been progressing really well, had no setbacks during the recovery time." 

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 13: Dylan Shiel of the Bombers poses for a photograph during the Essendon Bombers 2024 Official Team Photo Day at the NEC Hangar on February 13, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos)

St Kilda came knocking over the trade period, but Shiel has remained at Tullamarine.

"To be honest, I wasn't looking at it. It was a surprise when the media reported it, I was enjoying my off-season with the family," Shiel said.

"It's an interesting time of the year when as a footy club and a player where you're taking two weeks where you really have to think about what you're doing with your life and career.  

"There was the opportunity to move to the Saints, that's been reported. It would have been a more convenient drive from home, I live just around the corner there, but fortunately, I'm still here. 

"This is where I've always wanted to be. I've been really clear with the club how committed I am in helping this club where it wants to be, and I'm excited."

I believe I still have plenty of football left in me.

- Dylan Shiel

Despite the serious nature of the injury, Shiel thinks he can get back to his best. 

"That's why I'm still here, giving my best every day with everything I do in my training, in the meetings, even in my recovery and trying to help others get better around the club," he said. 

"I don't think anyone would come out and not try and give it their best or try to give it their best. It's certainly the mindset I've taken, every year is a chance to have a career-best year.  

"[Coach] Brad [Scott] has been really encouraging to guys taking that approach, even if they've been around for more than a decade."