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Team selection - Rd 22

BTV: RD 22 | Team Selection Senior Coach John Worsfold takes us through the team to face the Tigers at the MCG.

Essendon has been forced to make two changes to its side ahead of its must-win clash with reigning premier Richmond at the MCG on Friday.

Ben McNiece will join injured forward Orazio Fantasia on the sidelines, with coach John Worsfold revealing the defender failed to overcome a minor knee concern at training on Thursday.

“Ben hurt his knee last week. He managed to get through the game, but he was impeded late in the game and it just hasn’t come up to the point where he can go flat out,” Worsfold said.

Worsfold admitted it was frustrating to once again lose Fantasia to injury, this time due to a hamstring strain, and said the club will continue to investigate why the damaging 22-year-old has had such an interrupted season.

“It’s frustrating for us and for him. We always want the perfect scenarios, but we’re learning all the time and learning about what these guys can cope with,” he said.

“(We will) certainly look to try and work out why Orazio might have had a few soft-tissue injuries over the last year or so and put things in place to make sure that it’s not a continuing pattern.”

Doubt remained throughout the week about important trio Brendon Goddard (knee), Adam Saad (concussion) and Cale Hooker (knee) – who all suffered injuries in last week’s tough 43-point victory over St Kilda – but Worsfold confirmed each would take their place in the line-up.

“They’ve all come up well. It’s been a light week for them, but they’ve gone flat out and done enough work to feel confident about the game.”

Young midfielder Matt Guelfi and experienced defender Matt Dea enter the team after minor mishaps in recent weeks which saw Guelfi replaced in the side due to a bad case of gastro, and Dea take a cautious approach in his recovery from concussion.

While neither have played a full game in the last fortnight, Worsfold sees their inclusion as an opportunity for the pair to hit the ground running on Friday.

“Both come in fairly fresh, which is always nice at this time of year,” Worsfold said.

“As much as Guelfi was ill a couple of weeks ago, for a young player it hasn’t hurt him in terms of letting his whole body freshen up a bit.

“And Matty Dea (is) the same. He only played a half in the VFL on Saturday night after missing a couple of weeks, so he is fresh which is nice to have.”

Richmond is preparing to play without a number of key premiership players on Friday including captain Trent Cotchin, key defender David Astbury and on-ballers Dion Prestia and Kane Lambert, but Worsfold said it wouldn’t have a significant effect on his side’s preparation.

“We obviously just take into account how we think their line-up will look, but they’ve had wonderful depth.

“The players that will come in are players that have played a lot of senior footy, I’m only guessing this, but they’re going to be good players and hungry to grab their opportunity.”

Worsfold is excited by the challenge of facing the in-form Tigers as his side fights to keep the season alive, with victory the only option in the club’s two remaining home and away games.

“I must admit, I look forward to every game and I like the challenge every week,” Worsfold said.

“But when you’re playing the team that are the reigning premiers and have followed on with that brilliant season last year with another great season, it really opens up for us a chance to have a look at where we sit against a top-line team and take our best footy out there against them.”

The first bounce is set for 7.50pm at the MCG on Friday.

B – Dea, Hurley, Baguley

HB – Guelfi, Francis, McKenna
C – Zaharakis, Z. Merrett, Heppell
HF – McGrath, Brown, Smith
F – McDonald-Tipungwuti, Stringer, Colyer
R – Bellchambers, Langford, Myers
I/C – Parish, Goddard, Hooker, Saad
Emergencies – Ridley, Green, Leuenberger, Laverde

IN – Dea, Guelfi
OUT – McNiece, Fantasia