A number of important Bombers are on track to hit the ground running in the 2020 season after recovering well from post and pre-season surgery.
Michael Hurley leads a host of Dons expected to returning to full training in the near future, while several stars have already integrated back into the main group.
Hurley underwent a shoulder reconstruction at the end of the 2019 season and Essendon head of medical services David Rundle says the two-time All Australian is almost ready to withstand full contact.
“Hurls had a shoulder reconstruction and he’s really at the end of his rehabilitation phase. He’s been training essentially fully with the group except for contact,” Rundle said on Tuesday.
“He’s at the end of his contact progressions now and should be integrating fully with the group within the next week or so.”
Experienced onballer David Zaharakis has made great progress in his recovery from multiple procedures and is back in the thick of things on the track, while Rundle said fellow veterans Cale Hooker and Dyson Heppell are travelling “extremely well” as they near their return to full training.
“David’s also doing extremely well. He had surgery towards the end of the season on an ankle and then again earlier in the off-season (on his knee),” Rundle said.
“He had a slow start to his rehab, but he’s come on really well and he’s essentially training fully with the group at the moment.
“Cale had a hip arthroscopy. He’s running freely at the moment 10 weeks post-surgery. He’s got a little bit of work to do before he integrates back into the group, but he’s doing extremely well.
“(Dyson) had a slow build into his rehab, but he’s now running freely and we’re introducing some agility work with him.”
Ruckman Tom Bellchambers and star forward Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti have been briefly sidelined with minor injuries, but the pair are expected to be back with the main training group in the short term.
“Tom’s had anterior knee pain since Christmas. It was troubling him to the point where he felt it was affecting his performance, so we sought an orthopaedic consult and the recommendation was an arthroscopy.
“They performed a very minor procedure last Thursday. He’s come through that really well and he should be up and running within the next week or so.
“‘Walla’ (McDonald-Tipungwuti) on Monday a week ago felt some tightness in his calf during training and struggled for the next couple of days.
“We did get an MRI scan which showed a very minor injury to his soleus muscle and we only expect him to out for a short period. He actually had his first run today, so should be integrating back (into main training) within the next fortnight.”
Meanwhile, Rundle said exciting young ruck Sam Draper has impressed as he continues to make good progress from the ACL injury that cut his 2019 season short.
“Sam’s done a mountain of work, he’s doing extremely well,” he said.
“He’s working hard on his agility and he’s doing some special training off-site with gymnastics and he’s right on track for where we want him, so he’s doing a great job.”
Key forward Joe Daniher is taking good steps forward in his rehabilitation from a niggling groin injury that has restricted him to just 11 games over the last two seasons.
“Joe recently came back from Ireland where he spent a week of intensive training with a groin rehabilitation specialist.
“He’s come back in really good spirits, he’s up and running doing low-level running at the moment.
“He’s working on strength and capacity around his pelvis to stand him in good stead for the rigours of an AFL season.”
Fellow forward James Stewart has been off the scene since booting four goals in the opening round of the 2019 VFL season, but the versatile tall has been kicking goals on the track and is closing in on his return to full training as he recovers from his own groin injury.
“James is doing extremely well. Like Joe, he’s got to work on his strength and capacity around the pelvis,” Rundle said.
“He’s running freely, he’s running with good speed, he’s doing some good agility work and he should be integrating back in with group within the next three to four weeks.”
New recruit Mitch Hibberd is also not far from returning to training following successful knee surgery in late January.
“Mitch should be back in the next couple of weeks, he’s doing extremely well.
“He started running yesterday, so we expect him to have a fairly quick build over the next two or three weeks.”
Young Dons Noah Gown (foot) and Lachie Johnson (knee) are set for long stints on the sidelines, but Rundle said he has been impressed by the duo’s approach at rehabilitation at The Hangar.
“They’re both working very hard. Noah sees the orthopaedic surgeon tomorrow for a review of his foot. He is expected to be fully weight bearing, coming out of the boot and working hard at his strength from then on.
“Lachie has just started his running program, so it’s fairly early days there yet, but he’s working really hard with a really positive attitude and we’re very impressed with him.
Devon Smith (knee) and Irving Mosquito (hamstring) are back taking part in full training and gearing up for the 2020 season following their recovery from season-ending injuries last year.