New Essendon coach John Worsfold admits he can only hope the 12 banned Bombers will return to the AFL club.
As Worsfold prepares for his debut at Essendon coach this Sunday, the 12 Bombers serving doping suspensions are working out how to proceed with their season out of the game.
Those 12 and the five banned players at other clubs have turned down an offer from Mick Malthouse to coach them through their season-long suspensions.
Worsfold took over at Essendon in October and had worked with the 12 Essendon players until last month, when the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) handed down its devastating verdict.
The West Coast premiership coach hopes that limited time with the banned players will help convince them to return.
Defender Cale Hooker, for example, becomes a free agent at the end of the season.
There has also been speculation about whether captain Jobe Watson will want to continue his AFL career once he is free to play again.
“I can’t be confident because I don’t know what they’re thinking, and I don’t know how they’ll be feeling in six months’ time,” Worsfold told the AFL website.
“But I can be really hopeful.
“I’m really confident that the 12 have already seen a glimpse of what we’re starting to build, and that they were excited about that and that’s going to be even better by the end of this season.
“So if they do come back, they’ll be really excited by what they come back to.”
Worsfold is determined that this is much more than a gap year at Essendon, saying this is the start of the team’s build up to their next premiership.
Essendon’s first NAB Challenge match will be on Sunday against Carlton at Ikon Park.