Coach John Worsfold says the mood at Essendon is a mix of anxiousness and relief with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) set to hand down its verdict on the AFL club’s doping saga next week.
Ahead of the Bombers’ first open training session of the year, Worsfold, who replaced James Hird last October, said it was business as usual although the club had contingencies in place regarding the result.
The World Anti-Doping Agency decided to appeal the AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal’s decision to clear 34 past and present Essendon players for their involvement in the club’s supplements program in 2011 and 2012.
CAS announced last month it would hand down its decision any time from Monday after deliberating since November in what’s expected to be the last leg of the legal process.
Worsfold said the club was doing all it could to assist the players, with 12 remaining on the list from 2012.
“What we’ve talked a lot about is that they (the players) have no control so let’s focus on what we can control, but that doesn’t take away any anxiety that they may feel,” Worsfold said.
“We’ve got people around the club that have constantly kept the players informed and talked to them and will be on hand next week as well.”
A large crowd of Bombers fans turned out despite their round one game against Gold Coast not until March 26, with the NAB Challenge just over a month away.
Vice-captain Dyson Heppell is still to resume full training with Worsfold saying he had a unspecified “lower body” injury that flared up during the post-season Australia-Ireland international rules clash.
“He’s just had a bit of soreness that he carried through the second half of last year, and then it didn’t really settle through the games against the Irish,” said Worsfold.
“We’re pretty confident that it’s not going to be a drama and he will be back by next week.”
Captain Jobe Watson and key defender Michael Hurley were both not far off full-contact training following shoulder surgeries.
Worsfold said he planned to use the pre-season competition to put his mark on the side rather than blood youngsters.
“There’ll be a change – whether it’s noticeable or not is a hard thing to say,” Worsfold said.
“Often there’s a lot of learning to happen in the first part of the year, but I don’t think it’ll take too long – there’s nothing too drastic.”