Last Saturday, Sam Draper didn’t take long to remind Essendon fans why he’s been so missed.

After missing nine games to injury last season and undergoing groin surgery in September, Draper’s anticipated return to the line-up for round two’s clash with the Swans provided important physical presence at stoppages for the Dons.

Paired with veteran recruit Todd Goldstein in the ruck, Draper finished with 12 disposals and six score involvements on the night, marking a successful return despite the Bombers falling short in a tense encounter away from home.

A lively start to the contest saw the Bombers bring the heat to an in-form Sydney around the clearances, an element which impressed Draper in his comeback.

While there’s still work needed to tidy up their four-quarter consistency, Draper believes the spirit shown by the Bombers is setting a good platform for their year to come.


“It’s obviously really disappointing that we didn’t get the win, but we were right in it,” Draper said.

“A few costly things hurt us in the end - they were pretty clean on the turnover - but I can’t fault the effort tonight. Our pressure was really good, I just think they were a bit cleaner than us and they made us pay.”

Alongside his rehab over the off-season, Draper’s been making a concentrated effort to improve his forward craft and provide a handy target in attack when relinquishing centre-bounce duties.

Seizing an early opportunity for a return goal from outside the 50-metre arc, Draper’s hearty celebration showed what it meant for him to be back on an AFL ground again.

“I was pretty pumped up because I’ve been working hard this Summer (on my goalkicking),” Draper said.

“It’s really amazing (to be back), it’s been a pretty long road of recovery. I had surgery in September, so it’s taken a while but I’m feeling really good, it’s been a while since I felt like this.

“I ran out of legs a bit late in the game and we needed to get some fresh legs on, but it was nice to play with ‘Goldy’ (Goldstein) and I think we’re starting to build some nice connection there, it’s good fun.”

Despite the result falling Sydney’s way, Draper feels the areas for improvement are being identified more readily, with the side giving a solid account of themselves in the opening two rounds.

“I think our pressure’s been really good in the first two rounds, but we probably got hurt a bit by some of their mids going forward and kicking goals, so we’ll look into that,” Draper said.

“The boys really stood up today, we just didn’t quite get it for four quarters.”