The impending return of midfielders Heath Hocking and David Myers has Essendon coach James Hird optimistic of a much-improved back end to the AFL season.
Hocking (groin) has not played at all this season while Myers (shoulder) has been sidelined since round one, but both players are in the mix to resume against Hawthorn on Saturday week.
The pair’s potential inclusion after the bye would be welcome relief for the Bombers, who have slumped to 13th on the AFL ladder with a 4-7 record after dropping five of their last six games.
It would also add some much-needed grunt to an Essendon outfit still struggling to cover for the off-season loss of ruck-forward Paddy Ryder to Port Adelaide.
First-choice ruckman Tom Bellchambers was dropped to the VFL for Saturday’s 50-point loss to West Coast in Perth while fellow big man Jake Carlisle is also struggling for form.
Hird expected the return of Hocking and Myers, along with that of veteran Jason Winderlich from a back injury, would provide the balance his Bombers have been missing for several weeks.
Essendon’s scoring woes continued against the Eagles on Saturday, kicking just six goals only a week after being held goalless in the opening half of their disappointing loss to Geelong.
“What happens when you put two big bodies like Myers and Hocking back into your team is you can actually play an even-numbered forward line and score more,” Hird said.
“(On Saturday) we weren’t able to play an even-numbered forward line because we wanted to make sure that West Coast didn’t win the clearances easily with their ruck dominance, and that affects the way you score.
“We like having even numbers ahead of the ball, but when you’re getting beaten significantly in clearances you’ve got to try and fix that up.”
Former Adelaide utility Shaun McKernan is likely to be elevated off the rookie list this week and will be pushing for senior selection after a five-goal haul for Essendon’s VFL side.
Bellchambers is also in contention for a recall after kicking four goals in the seconds on Saturday, as will former Greater Western Sydney ruckman Jonathan Giles who booted three.
Meanwhile, West Coast have opted to hold back several fringe players from Sunday’s WAFL action ahead of Friday’s blockbuster clash with Richmond at the MCG.
Ruckman Scott Lycett, forward Fraser McInnes and first-year player Jackson Nelson were left out of the East Perth team on Sunday, but midfielder Matt Rosa (hamstring) will line up for his first game in six weeks.
“We’ve got two six-day breaks in a row going interstate against a side which has had 15 days off so we had to plan this,” Eagles coach Adam Simpson said.
Key defender Jeremy McGovern suffered a corked thigh against the Bombers and will be monitored ahead of the Tigers clash.