Sam Draper will share the ruck load for Essendon in 2024, after the arrival of North Melbourne veteran Todd Goldstein. (Image: Brandon Patane - The Inner Sanctum)

Following the arrival of veteran Todd Goldstein from North Melbourne, the Bombers’ ruck lineup will have a new look in 2024.

Playing alongside the retired Andrew Phillips and youngster Nick Bryan over the last couple of seasons, Bombers big man Sam Draper has benefitted from what has generally been a cohesive ruck unit.

Though with the addition of Goldstein, one of the competition’s most experienced rucks, Draper believes that this will continue and he will be able to co-exist well with his new teammate.

“I think we can definitely be a good partnership together,” he said.

“The last couple of years, I’ve learnt my craft in the forward line and I feel really comfortable playing forward, so whatever [the partnership] looks like I’m excited for it.

“It did work well together with me and ‘Flip’ (Andrew Phillips). I feel like ‘Goldy’ is an amazing player too, so I feel like it definitely can work.”

For Draper, Bryan, and the Bombers group as a whole, Goldstein’s knowledge will be hugely beneficial in a season where they are looking to climb up the AFL ladder. His experience is something that Draper flagged as a big addition over the summer.

“The group is very happy to have someone with his experience on the list,” he said.

“He’s played over 300 games and he’s the all-time hitout record holder. It’s quite amazing.

“The more I get out on the track, I’ll be able to learn even more from him. It’s been a bit hard at the moment because I’ve been in rehab.”

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After dealing with a groin injury that has hampered him over the break, Draper has returned to training with the group and is ready to fully focus on his football after a difficult recovery.

“I’m feeling pretty good to be honest,” Draper said.

“The last couple of weeks have been great for me, running around pain free and slowly getting into some drills with the boys.

“I’ve been trying not to think too far ahead… just sort of taking [the injury] one week at a time. I think that has definitely helped.

“I’m definitely aiming to play some of those practice games. Not sure what that looks like, if it’s AFL or VFL.

“It’s not a straightforward injury, I feel like other injuries I’ve had in the past have been really clear cut in what you need to do to get better.

“This injury’s had a lot of grey area… I feel like it’s taught me a lot and I feel like I’m going to be better off after this injury.”

Essendon will return to the field on Friday, February 23 in a match simulation against St Kilda at RSEA Park, before heading to GMHBA Stadium to take on Geelong in the AFL Community Series on Friday, March 1.

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