Essendon expect to have a much clearer picture of where they stand in the AFL after Sunday’s last pre-season game against West Coast.
While the predictions are dire, no-one – including Essendon – is quite sure how the Bombers will go this year.
The doping suspensions of 12 players and their 10 replacements make the Bombers a unique case in AFL history.
They started the pre-season by belting an understrength Carlton, but were well-beaten themselves when they rested several key players against Geelong.
Essendon will take a strong squad west and the Eagles have also strengthened their lineup ahead of round one.
“This game will be probably the best indication we get,” said new Essendon coach John Worsfold.
“West Coast have been in a bit of the same boat.
“Both teams having stronger lineups is just a great opportunity for us to practise what we’re working on and see where we sit.”
While Essendon will rest Ryan Crowley and top-10 draft pick Darcy Parish, Geelong premiership pair James Kelly and Mathew Stokes will play their first games for the Bombers.
“Stokes and Kelly are ready, they’ve played in a couple of intra-club games and their (training) volumes tell us they’re ready to go,” Worsfold said.
Ruckman Matthew Leuenberger, who joined Essendon in a trade, will most likely play in a VFL practice match this weekend as he returns.
Former North Melbourne defender Nathan Grima also will not play against West Coast, despite his lobbying of the Essendon coaching staff.
“If you ask him, he’s ready to go,” Worsfold said.
Of the 10 replacement players, only Grima and James Polkinghorne are unlikely to be available for round one.
Worsfold said Parish and Crowley will definitely play in their season opener against Gold Coast.
“The No.1 thing is that they’re fit and fresh for round one and if round one was next week, they’d be up and going,” he said.
Sunday will be the first time that Worsfold coaches against the club where he made his name as a premiership captain and coach.
“It’s funny – I know all the guys so well and I know the club so well,” he said.
“But you don’t sit here wondering what they’re doing.
“You sit here focussing on what we’re trying to achieve and what we’re working on.
“(There is) no emotion or anything really involved with it.”