AFL 2022: Essendon’s five late withdrawals last week all ready to return

Russell GouldNCA NewsWire
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Essendon best and fairest Jordan Ridley and four teammates who missed last week’s win over Hawthorn after illness swept through the club are back at training and ready to take on Sydney on Saturday night.

Ridley, Jake Kelly, Matt Guelfi and Alec Waterman all fell ill in the days before the epic comeback win over the Hawks, with Sam Durham pulling out in the hours before the clash.

But all five are “tracking well” for a return along with ruckman Andrew Phillips and wingman Nik Cox, posing a selection headache for Essendon coach Ben Rutten.

Despite the pre-game chaos and the inclusion of Devon Smith, who was set to start rehab on an injured knee, the Bombers stormed over the top of Hawthorn in a win that could kickstart their season.

Rutten has to decide whether the inclusion of seven mainly first-choice players at the expense of those who helped inspire the win is the right move.

But Essendon head of high performance Sean Murphy said all the ill players should be available this weekend.

“Those five lads are all improving, which is great,” Murphy said.

“They were in (at the club) on Tuesday, trained with the boys and they’re building across the program for the week. Hopefully, we’ll see them this weekend, but all things are tracking well for them.”

Cox, who played 22 games in his debut season in 2021 and the first five this season before hurting his ankle, is also up for selection.

‘“Coxy’ didn’t quite get up (last week) with that ankle,” Murphy said.

“The six-day turnaround wasn’t quite ideal for him, so he still has a bit of soreness in that ankle.

“He trained with the boys and we expect that to be (his ankle) OK across the week, and it will give us a bit of an idea about his availability, but all things are looking good for this weekend.”

Ruckman Phillips has successfully overcome the hamstring strain sustained in round 5 and the 30-year-old is also in the selection mix.

“He (Phillips) had to tick off a few markers which he didn’t do in that main training session last week,” Murphy said.

Smith, the 2018 best and fairest who had been dropped, was likely to go back to the rehab program that had been set for him before the unexpected call-up.

“Dev entered a mini rehab program for his knee,” Murphy said.

“Everything’s going well. He’s had a degenerative knee which we saw an opportunity to get a bit of strength work into that.

“He hadn’t shut down and was right to play. When the call came through that we were needing a few more boys, he was more than happy to step in, and he performed well on the night.

“Now we’ll just manage him and see what the week looks like for him.”

Originally published as AFL 2022: Essendon’s five late withdrawals last week all ready to return

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