A number of important Bombers have been made available for selection ahead of Essendon’s season-opening clash with Fremantle at Marvel Stadium on Saturday.
Experienced ruck Tom Bellchambers, key forward James Stewart, veteran onballer David Zaharakis and new Don Mitch Hibberd have all put their hand up for selection to take on the Dockers, while several others are also on the brink of their returns.
Club head of medical services David Rundle said Bellchambers has made a full recovery from minor knee surgery.
“Tom had an arthroscopy on his left knee a few weeks ago and he’s pulled up really well from that,” Rundle said on Tuesday.
“He’s had no issues with his knee since then, he’s been training fully with the group and he’s ready to play this week.”
Stewart’s injury concern has taken far longer to overcome, with groin troubles keeping him off the field since the opening round of the 2019 VFL season.
But the tall goalkicker has impressed on the track and is ready to go should the selectors want to add some height to the side’s forward line.
“James had groin issues, which have taken some time to resolve. He’s been training extremely well with the group and he’s available this week.”
Zaharakis was forced from the ground during Essendon’s second Marsh Community Series hit-out against Geelong in Colac last Monday, but Rundle confirmed the club’s most experienced player is ready to fire again.
Hibberd’s return to the field earlier in the day for the VFL Bombers’ pre-season game against the Cats provided him with the opportunity to prove his full fitness and a pain-free return has seen him join Zaharakis in the selection mix.
“David got a corked thigh and we took him off as a matter of precaution. He’s trained fully with the group this week and he’s available to play.
“Mitch, that was his first game back following a knee arthroscopy and he’s pulled up really well. Again, he’s available this week.”
Cale Hooker has not been able to recover from a hip injury in time for Saturday’s game, but Rundle said signs are positive moving forward.
“Cale’s training really well, he’s been integrated fully with the group and he should be available within the next one to two weeks.”
He said tough defender Patrick Ambrose is also “going really well” in his recovery from a PCL injury suffered three weeks ago in an unofficial practice match against Melbourne, but the backman remains several weeks away from returning to full fitness.
“He saw the orthopaedic surgeon yesterday, had the brace removed and he’s been given the all okay to commence running within the next week.
“We expect he’ll take about four weeks to build up running volumes before he’ll join in training with the main group. He should expect to have a couple of weeks of training with the group before returning to play.”
Star forward Joe Daniher continues to take small steps forward in his rehabilitation from a niggling groin injury that has kept him to just 11 games across the last two seasons.
“Joe’s making steady progress, he’s increasing his running volumes out on the track,” Rundle said.
“In the gym he’s working very hard at increasing the strength and capacity around the pelvis to help him withstand the rigours of AFL football.”
Essendon skipper Dyson Heppell is patiently working his way back from a foot injury, while emerging ruck Sam Draper, key forward Noah Gown and draftee Lachie Johnson round out the injury list.