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Dons buoyed by inclusions

BTV: Rd 13 | Team Selection Senior Coach John Worsfold takes us through the team to face Hawthorn at Marvel on Friday night.
We’re always disappointed when 'Raz' is out of the team and we really want to get him going."
John Worsfold

Essendon coach John Worsfold is thrilled to have a trio of stars back at his disposal for his side’s important clash with Hawthorn on Friday night at Marvel Stadium.

Orazio Fantasia will make his awaited return against the Hawks for his first game since injuring his quad as he booted four goals against Sydney in round eight, and Worsfold admitted it is frustrating when the dynamic forward is stuck on the sidelines.

“We’re always disappointed when 'Raz' is out of the team and we really want to get him going where he just plays consistent footy now, it’s really important for us going forward,” Worsfold said on Thursday.

“It’s great to have him back out there and we know he’s going to contribute at a really high level for us.”

Big-bodied Bomber Jake Stringer and classy onballer Dylan Shiel – who both suffered minor hamstring injuries against Richmond in round 10 – will also take his place in the team, adding crucial experience to the squad.

Worsfold was full of praise for Stringer, whose versatility allows the coach some more freedom to be flexible.

“He’s a very smart player and plays multiple roles for us; we use him on the ball for periods of the game and we know he contributes really strongly up forward.

“He has been one of our really top players in some of our struggling games this year and performed well in others, so he’s been in good form and it’s great to have him back.”

Jake Stringer has overcome his hamstring injury and will line up on Friday. (Image: AFL Photos)

Shiel was on the verge of lining up against Carlton in round 11 prior to last week’s bye, which has Worsfold confident that the sensational recruit will be ready to fire on Friday.

“It was such a fine line not playing him against Carlton, because he pulled up reasonably well and had hit some pretty good speed.

“We were always confident that he was over that hamstring pretty comfortably and was going to be right for this week.

“He trains like a professional every time and everyone’s excited to have him back in the squad.”

Dylan Shiel has been flying on the track to prove he is ready to take on the Hawks. (Image: AFL Photos)

Young Bomber Aaron Francis, pressure forward Mark Baguley and versatile defender Ben McNiece have been unable to hold their spots following the defeat of the Blues, but Worsfold stressed they were simply the unlucky ones who had to make way for the inclusions.

“All the guys that go out of the side were serviceable and played their roles in the win against Carlton, so it’s a tough one,” Worsfold said.

“Those guys that are coming in are playing their specific roles and deserved to grab those spots, so it was a tough call for the three players that are going out.

“But they’re well and truly aware – we’ve communicated that to them – that they really helped us as a club win against Carlton and they need to help us continue to win by playing good VFL footy and being available when they’re needed to come in.”


Essendon sits a single place above Hawthorn on the ladder on percentage alone (1.7 per cent clear) and Worsfold said his side will have to be at its best to beat the Hawks in what looms as a particularly crucial match to kick off the back half of the season.

“They’re very similar to us, they’re sitting on the same number of wins as us so they would say they haven’t been as consistent as they would like.

“But we know they’re a good line-up. They are bringing some new players through – (Hawks veteran Jarryd) Roughead hasn’t been in the squad – as they start to look to the future.

“We know what we’re up against and we know we have to really play our best footy and see how well we can go against them.

“(The bye) has been a good break, (we have) trained well over the weekend and this week, so we feel like we’ve done everything possible to be as best prepared as we can.”

The first bounce is set for 7:50pm.