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Big man's return looming large

BTV: Media Conference | John Worsfold - August 20 Senior coach John Worsfold spoke to the media at The Hangar.
He's (Bellchambers) been in really good form for us, so we would love to have him back in the team when he's ready to go."
John Worsfold

Essendon could welcome back ruckman Tom Bellchambers for Friday night's clash with Collingwood. 

The Bombers have been without their No.1 ruckman since he injured his calf in round 15 against Greater Western Sydney. 

But the 30-year-old is pressing for a return and is expected to play this weekend, be it at AFL level against the Magpies or in the VFL. 

"[He's] a chance to be available for this week's game," coach John Worsfold said on Tuesday.

"I'm pretty sure he's doing main training today and we'll assess him after that. I'm expecting he's available to play footy this week. It could be [in the VFL]."

Zac Clarke has filled in for Bellchambers during his absence, but the Bombers will want their leading ruck to be primed for the finals after the club secured its top-eight spot with a win over Fremantle on Saturday.

"He has been a key part of some of our best footy throughout the last couple of seasons. He's been in really good form for us, so we would love to have him back in the team when he's ready to go," Worsfold said of Bellchambers.


Bellchambers could play his first game since round 15 this week. (Photo: AFL Photos)

Key defender Cale Hooker missed last week's win over the Dockers with a groin injury and is also likely to return, but the Bombers will consider their selection options with some sore players with finals around the corner.

Captain Dyson Heppell has been nursing a foot injury that will likely require surgery in the off-season, while Orazio Fantasia has also been battling soreness for a number of weeks. Forward Jake Stringer was also among the rehab group and missed Tuesday's session. He has had hamstring niggles recently. 

Worsfold said the Bombers' match committee would discuss resting Heppell for this week given Essendon cannot drop out of the top-eight or likely move up the ladder either.  

"It's an option. But it's around what's best for the player and team this week, and what does that mean for them the following week or weeks after that, so how do we best get the most out of all of our players for as long as we can," Worsfold said.

"It's complicated and it's taken a lot of our time up at the moment, but it's a focus we have to have. 

Essendon will return to the finals for the first time since 2017, and the Bombers are hoping to break the longest drought in the competition without a finals win, dating back to 2004.

In that time the club has had four elimination defeats, including heavy losses to Adelaide (in 2009), Carlton (2011) and Sydney (2017), while in 2014 the Bombers lost a nail biter to North Melbourne having led by five goals earlier in the game. 

But Worsfold said that history meant little to the Bombers.

"It does seem like there is a lot of talk about [Essendon winning a final]. Not so much internally, but externally. It's just a fact," he said.

"This group hasn't played too many finals together, so our focus is on what we can achieve as a group, not trying to address the last 14 years."