Experienced on-baller David Zaharakis is expected to be cleared to return for Essendon’s highly anticipated Anzac Day clash with Collingwood at the MCG on Thursday.
The 29-year-old was a late withdrawal from the Bombers’ 58-point thumping of North Melbourne last week after failing to recover from an infected cut to his knee suffered in the side’s round four defeat of Brisbane.
While his selection isn’t guaranteed, club physical performance manager Justin Crow said all signs are positive heading into the annual blockbuster.
“As we know, David Zaharakis had the laceration in his knee, which is healing well but it’s a deep cut, so that ruled him out of last weekend,” Crow said on the SKINS Injury Update.
“He trained yesterday and trained well with the main group. He’s made a lot of progress since the weekend and we’re expecting him to be available for the game.”
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Zaharakis wasn’t the only player to be taken out of the side last Friday, with ruckman Zac Clarke also pulled out prior to the match due to a corked calf.
Crow confirmed Clarke has sustained a secondary bleed in the calf and revealed the former Docker is unlikely to be available for selection this week.
“Zac Clarke trained a little bit later than the main group last week and looked quite good, it got better the more he did.
“He presented on the day of the game (against the Kangaroos) with more blood in his calf after getting a knock in the previous match. He’s had a secondary bleed from that initial cork within that calf, which has set him back.
“We actually don’t think that he’ll get up for this weekend, but he’s doing everything he can to try to clear the blood from the calf in what is a significant bleed.”
Joe Daniher took Clarke’s place in the line-up last week for his first senior game since round seven last year, and Crow said the star forward’s recovery from the breakthrough match has been successful.
“Joe came out of the game well, he trained yesterday with the main group and looked quite good, so we’re really comfortable with how Joe’s pulled up from the last match.”
In disappointing news, Crow said versatile defender Marty Gleeson suffered an injury in the VFL side’s 94-point drubbing of North Melbourne on Saturday and is set for a stint on the sidelines.
Gleeson came off second best after copping a knock to the head in a frustrating incident following his recent return from a severe ankle injury that kept him off the field for a year.
“Marty got a knock to the head and he’s got a fracture in his cheek bone, that will mean he’ll be unavailable for the next two weeks,” Crow said.
“We’ll just keep getting the advice from the specialist about his availability and the best situation to return him into training and then also games.”
Trainers assess Gleeson after suffering a head knock at Avalon Airport Oval on Saturday.
Dynamic forward Josh Begley was also off the scene for nearly a year after suffering an ACL injury in last year’s ANZAC Day clash, but he has impressed in his two VFL games on restricted game time so far this year.
Crow said the club has been “really pleased” with Begley’s progress and the 20-year-old has been cleared for a full match this week.
One Don who won’t be playing this week is key forward James Stewart as the club continues to take a patient approach with his recovery from a groin injury.
“Last week we mentioned that James hadn’t run yet and was a little bit slow to get going – that’s still the case.
“We’re going to keep holding until he’s completely clear before starting his running progressions. Once we do that, he’ll be a couple of weeks away.
“He is a little bit slow to get started, but we’re really intent on getting this one right.”
Kobe Mutch and Shaun McKernan, who suffered significant hamstring injuries against Melbourne in round three, are reportedly on track as they continue to slowly build up their running loads.
“Kobe is now back doing his second running session this week, which is an important step in his rehab.
“Shaun has done a fair bit of running over the last couple of weeks, he’s built up to doing over 20 kilometres of volume running this week.
“We’ll be holding off the top speeds until he’s ready, but he’s certainly getting some good volume of work at the moment.”
All eyes will be on the Bombers on Thursday with the first bounce set for 3:20pm.