Essendon coach Ben Rutten expects skipper Dyson Heppell to be available for Thursday night’s round 4 opener against the Swans.
Speaking at Tuesday’s training session at The Hangar, Rutten was bullish about the captain who has been battling a back issue for the past fortnight.
“He’s been improving all the time,” Rutten said.
“He’ll train today and if he gets through that fine he’ll be available this week. If he plays [this week] he’ll play in the AFL.”
Mason Redman was the only casualty from Saturday’s 75-point win over the Saints, and sat out Tuesday’s training with a rehabilitation group that included James Stewart (hamstring), Dylan Shiel (knee) and Jye Caldwell (hamstring).
Sam Draper watched on in a moon boot as he continues his recovery from an ankle injury, with Peter Wright to continue assuming ruck duties.
“We were pretty pleased with the way [Wright] performed,” Rutten said.
“He’s played a fair bit of time in the ruck, we liked a lot of what he did.
“It’s not all about hit outs but he’s done some good stuff around the ground for us as well.”
Veteran David Zaharakis will be available for selection after two weeks in the VFL, but Rutten was unsure if there would be any unforced changes to the side, despite the five day turnaround to Thursday night in Sydney.
“He’s got through another game in the VFL. It’s great to have him available,” he said.
“We had some strong contributors in that game [VFL], Zaharakis, Marty Gleeson, and Ned Cahill so there’s some guys there.
“We also came off a pretty good win so some selection pressure is good.”
The Bombers and Swans are both coming off big wins in Melbourne on Saturday, with Rutten excited with what he saw from his side.
“I thought the way we fought the game out was fantastic; two minutes to go Darcy Parish lays a chase down tackle in the goal square was a great indication of the guys’ attitude,” he said.
“We’re not going to get the scoreboard looking like that for four quarters, but I think the way we played was the pleasing thing and it’s not always going to go our way, but the way we stuck to what we’ve been training and what we want to do was really good.”
The Bombers face an in-form Sydney outfit which sits in second position on the ladder after an undefeated start to the season.
Rutten said the team is looking to show it can match it with the league’s best on the road after suffering a 54-point defeat in Adelaide against the Power in round 2.
“It’s a great opportunity that we’re looking forward to.
“They’re going as well as any team in the comp, and to be able to go up to Sydney. If we think back to round 2 we went over to Port Adelaide, and again, similar situation, playing away against a team in good form and we didn’t start great at all. We gave up five goals pretty quickly.
“So that’ll be a big focus for us, to be able to start well, but our guys are really looking forward to another opportunity to go travel and play against a really top team.”
Essendon’s side to face the Swans will be confirmed on Wednesday night.
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