Essendon will be bolstered by the return of Cale Hooker and Patrick Ambrose to full training this week, with the club today resuming non-contact training following the AFL’s shutdown period.

Both Hooker and Ambrose had been sidelined prior to round one, but the enforced extended break during the shutdown has allowed additional recovery time for the key defenders, according to head of medical services Dave Rundle.

“Cale had hip surgery pre-Christmas, so the shutdown period has been particularly good for him to get his body into good shape for a return to footy,” Rundle said.

“He’s expected to train with the main group this week which is really pleasing.

“Patrick is 11 weeks post his PCL injury. He is progressing nicely and is at the end stages of his rehab. He’s got one or two strength areas to target this week but should be integrating into full training with the group later this week too.” 

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Richardson's football update

GM of football Dan Richardson provides an update as Essendon returns to training.

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Emerging ruckman Sam Draper is also expected to reintegrate into group training at The Hangar this week, as he makes his return from a 12-month recovery from an anterior cruciate ligament injury.  

“Sam is 12 months post his ACL reconstruction, and is in great shape. We expect him to be training with the group this week, which is really exciting for Sam,” Rundle said. 

“Once we’re permitted, we’ll be introducing contact progressions for him which he hasn’t been able to do to date, due to social distancing. Typically, he would require a month of team training into graduated match simulation exposure, but what this looks like is yet to be determined due to there being no VFL.” 

Sam Draper during training on Monday. (Photo: Essendon FC)

Rundle said James Stewart would also continue full training with the group, after overcoming ongoing groin issues.

“James was in full training prior to the shutdown period. He was available for round one selection. He hasn’t missed a session during the shutdown period and is in good shape to return to train with the main group.”

In further good news, Noah Gown is making his recovery from a fractured foot and has resumed running, but Rundle said the club would continue to take a conservative approach with his rehab.

“Noah Gown sustained a fractured fifth metatarsal early in the pre-season. He’s been up and running over the past four weeks and is looking really good,” Rundle said.

“He had a surgical review last week which cleared him to ramp things up, but given the long period of time he’s had away from running, we expect a reasonably conservative approach managing him back into the program."

Rundle also provided an update on Dyson Heppell and Joe Daniher, who were continuing their recovery from foot and groin injuries respectively. 

“Dyson was slow to progress following the removal of the screws in his foot in February, due to a low-level infection which lasted several weeks. This infection has resolved, and he’s been up and running for the past four weeks. He’s in great shape and feeling good,” he said. 

“He’s done an enormous amount of rehab strength work and strength work in general in preparation for his return to run. We’re not putting any timeframes on him, but we expect him to integrate into group training prior to games commencing. 

“Joe has been working very hard and making steady progress. His strength and capacity around the pelvis has improved, his running volumes have increased and he’s building his offline running. It’s not expected that his progress will be linear throughout his rehab, and we’ll introduce him to team training when he’s ready to do so.”

Joe Daniher in action during Monday's return to training. (Photo: Essendon FC)

Recruit Harrison Jones is expected to be sidelined for at least another fortnight, having sustained a minor stress fracture in his foot after experiencing soreness during the shutdown period.

“Harrison Jones has sustained a stress fracture at the base of his big toe after he felt some soreness in recent weeks,” Rundle said.

“He’s been off running for the past three weeks and will require a couple more weeks of rest before we start to build him up.”