Senior Coach Brad Scott is set to have his hands full over the coming weeks with a group of Bombers putting their hands up for senior selection.

As the Dons gear up to face Sydney at the SCG this Saturday night, a strong block of work through three VFL practice games has given Sam Draper a strong chance of joining the travelling party.

Eager to ply his trade at AFL level again after a lengthy spell of recovery in the off-season from a groin injury, Draper’s availability could bolster the Bombers’ ruck stocks against an in-form Swans side on the road.

With Todd Goldstein performing well on club debut in last week’s win over Hawthorn and Scott’s tendency to play two rucks throughout the 2023 season, the more options available the better for the Dons.


“’Drapes’ is certainly right in the mix. Based on last year we really missed him, so we were determined that once we get him back, we’ve got him back for good,” Scott said.

“You take (medical) advice, but my only two cents’ worth is (to) do everything we can to get him back to the Sam Draper that we know and not just try and rush to get him back because he makes our team look better on paper.

“He’s certainly done everything in his power to make himself available for this week, so provided he trains well, I suspect we’ll pick him. He’s played three VFL games which has frustrated him, because he feels like he’s ready to go, so that’s the attitude I want – you know, I want him chomping at the bit.

“(The ruck line-up is) going to be a week-to-week discussion for us and hopefully a really good challenge in terms of which way we’re going to go. I thought ‘Goldy’ was fantastic last week, and to have Draper now available gives us a lot of options to work through.”

Another boost to the Bombers’ clearance game could be the return of Darcy Parish, who’ll be a test for the weekend’s clash pending how he gets through training this week.

With Ben Hobbs and fellow midfielder Dylan Shiel each making strong comebacks from injury through the VFL over the past two weeks, finding the right shape for the on-ball brigade will provide a challenge for Scott and his coaching team.


“I suspect (Parish will) be made medically available, he’ll train fully today (Wednesday) and it’ll come down to more of a coaching decision rather than a medical decision, which is the way we’d like it,” Scott said.

“’Hobbsy’ in particular has had a terrific pre-season, he had a really unfortunate injury in terms of timing – not a major injury – just one that we wanted to get right, but he’s ready to play AFL footy and he’ll come into our team whether it’s this week or pretty soon.

“With ‘Shiely’, we’ve got to remind ourselves he’s missed a lot of footy. It’s just great to see him back out there, but I think he needs some work in the VFL and he certainly felt that 10 minutes into his first hit-out in a long time.”

In the case of the Dons’ key position depth, the continued development of Nate Caddy in his first season is set to provide some interesting choices at the selection table over the course of 2024.

With experienced defenders Jayden Laverde and Nick Hind also presenting their cases for a senior return via the VFL last week, individual matchups will be key in informing Scott’s line-up.


“Jayden (Laverde)’s been a warrior for our football club for a long time and he’s going to play a really important part of our 2024 and beyond,” Scott said.

“Whether that’s this week, it’ll depend on matchups, we’re not settled on what it exactly looks like at the moment but we do have options.

“(Nate Caddy) is an 18-year-old key position player learning our system and he’s got a little bit to learn with that, but even more important than that, he’s just got to get AFL-ready. It’s a brutal, taxing game that we play and when we bring him in, we’d prefer to leave him in rather than having (him) in-out, in-out.

“How long that takes is really hard for me to say at the moment, but it’s undeniable how exciting he is and that is very tempting for our coaching group to bring him in sooner rather than later.”

Last week’s season-opener was a physical affair for the Dons, with tensions threatening to boil over early in the piece.

For Scott, channeling the Dons’ aggression in a positive fashion has been a key theme in establishing their ‘edge’ and overall style of play leading into this season.

Looking to build off their gritty win over the Hawks, the trip to the SCG this weekend will host a huge test for the Bombers against a Sydney outfit sitting at 2-0 for the season so far.


“We’ve been very explicit that we want an ‘Essendon edge’ and I think all people who’ve followed our club for a long period of time know what (that) looks like,” Scott said.

“We want to be totally in control of what we’re doing, and I thought for the large part of the game against Hawthorn we did that pretty well. When you play an aggressive, contact, combative sport, players play on the edge, and we want that, but we don’t want to go over the line either.”

“Clearly we measure everything really closely, but it’s day-by-day for us. We’ve got to keep building a system that our players, coaching group, and by extension our fans have confidence in.

“Along with another couple of teams, (Sydney are) setting a benchmark at the moment with the way they’re playing, they’ve been very impressive in their two games. We’re going to have to be at our best.”