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Heppell eyes off return

BTV: Rd 17 | Team Selection Senior Coach John Worsfold takes us through the team to face North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium on Saturday.
‘Hepp’ is really confident that he’s going to be out there next week."
John Worsfold

Essendon captain Dyson Heppell has his eyes set on a round 18 return after failing to prove his fitness in time for the Bombers’ important clash with North Melbourne on Saturday.

Heppell was withdrawn from the side that defeated Sydney by 10 points last Saturday due to pain in the growth plate of his foot, but he was still in the mix to take on the Roos despite spending a number of days in a precautionary moon boot earlier this week.

Coach John Worsfold said the inspirational skipper is “confident” he will miss just one more game and be ready to fire against Adelaide on Friday, July 19.

“He was certainly close (to lining up this week), but it’s an injury that we have to just monitor from week to week,” Worsfold said on Thursday.

“‘Hepp’ is really confident that he’s going to be out there next week, but we’ll wait and see. I think he’ll get up.”

Heppell encourages young teammate Dylan Clarke ahead of the Tackling Childhood Cancer game. (Image: AFL Photos)

Ball magnet Zach Merrett will take the reins as captain for the second consecutive week, while Worsfold confirmed fellow leaders Michael Hurley (hip) and Cale Hooker (back) have come through the week with flying colours.

“‘Hurls’ wasn’t really under a cloud, he did have a scan earlier in the week, but that was more just to see why he was getting a little bit of pain. We were confident he was always going to play.

“‘Hooksy’ certainly had a stiff back (last week against Sydney) but got through the full game and he has improved every day and will be right to go.”

Mid-season recruit Will Snelling has been listed as an emergency for the second time on the trot following another sensational performance in the VFL last week, gathering 33 disposals, 16 contested possessions, eight tackles, seven clearances and five inside 50s.

While the exciting midfielder has been unable to break into the unchanged senior side this week, Worsfold said he has full confidence in Snelling’s ability to slot into the team when required.

“He’s ready to play, there’s no doubt about that – that’s why he’s in the squad.

“We haven’t had to make any changes to the line-up but if there was the opportunity, we think he’s ready to play for us.

“It’s a credit to him with the way he’s been going about it and he’s knocking on the door, which is awesome for us.”

Snelling has been in remarkable form in the VFL since arriving at The Hangar. (Image: AFL Photos)

The Bombers enter the clash off the back of five wins from their last seven outings, but Worsfold says there is plenty of room for improvement and achieving a consistent four quarters of quality football is a major focus for the side.

“We’re playing pretty good footy, but we think we can still play a lot better,” Worsfold said.

“We’ve got to just knuckle down and keep doing the work that we’ve been doing and keep aiming to put the whole game together over four quarters.

“The Roos are the challenge and they’re in the way of what we want to achieve, but we’ve got to be excited about that. It’s another opportunity to work on all of the stuff we’re committing to and want to get better at.”

Worsfold highlighted the positive impact Essendon’s passionate fans have had in helping lift the Dons over the line against Greater Western Sydney and the Swans in the past fortnight.

He called on all Bombers fans to rise again for the side, and also get behind charity partner Challenge for the Tackling Childhood Cancer game.

“Having the GWS game at Marvel, sitting down on the bench, it was really noticeable the support the players had and that the players actually feel it.

“We would love to know that the Bomber faithful are going to be out there again helping us maintain our momentum, keep our form up and really get behind us.

“I know Jake Stringer’s doing a lot of work with Challenge and we’ll get behind it and support it this week.

“It’s only a small thing that we have to do – we’ll don the jumper with the yellow band on the sleeve – and hopefully everyone else will support it, buy badges and get behind it.”