Big selection news for Bombers

Essendon captain Dyson Heppell will be rushed straight back into the senior side if he recovers from his back issue in time for Thursday’s clash with Sydney.

David Zaharakis could also be set to make his season debut after another strong VFL showing, boosting the Bombers even further after Saturday’s blowout win over St Kilda.

Heppell hasn’t played since Round 1 after reporting an issue with a disc in his back but has returned to training and won’t be brought back through the VFL.

“Yeah he is (available), so he‘s been improving all the time. He’ll train today and if he gets through that fine, he’ll be available for selection,” coach Ben Rutten said on Tuesday.

“If he plays, he‘ll play AFL.“

Zaharakis has been working his way back from a knee injury and could be another inclusion, with Mason Redman under a cloud after suffering a hamstring issue against the Saints.

Scans revealed there was no tear, and his availability is yet to be determined.

The Bombers defied a long injury list and the absence of Heppell, Zaharakis, Dylan Shield, Sam Draper, Jye Caldwell, vice-captain Michael Hurley, Patrick Ambrose (foot) and James Stewart to record Rutten’s first win as senior coach.

Those absences have opened the door for a raft of youngsters like Harrison Jones, Nik Cox and Archie Perkins, who Rutten praised for making an “exceptional” AFL entry

“Cox and Jones probably didn’t play a genuine game of footy all last year (because of the COVID-19 restrictions),” he said.

“The way they have come in and played has been pretty exceptional, and we are seeing that through the competition with the Victorian kids in particular who had an interrupted last season.

“Their games will get better and better. It was noticeable, the energy there.”

David Zaharakis could return for Essendon this weekend Picture: Michael KleinSource:News Corp Australia

Essendon faces a tough task to get win number two against the undefeated Swans who are set to regain superstar Lance Franklin a week after taking down reigning premiers Richmond.

Sydney is averaging 121 points a game this season, and the Bombers kicked 22 goals in the 75-point win over St Kilda.

Bur Rutten isn’t expecting an SCG shootout.

“They have been scoring really well off turnovers, they are the number one pressure team in the comp. It’s all connected,” he said.

“They are going as well as any team in the comp.”

Rutten said he would keep Cale Hooker forward after his five goals against St Kilda despite doing all his pre-season training in defence.

He was also mulling over more midfield minutes for the dynamic Jake Stringer, who kicked four majors last weekend.

“I don’t have a fixed plan (for Stringer),” Rutten said.

“He’s dangerous around the ball. As his fitness increases we will see how that pans out.”

Rutten said it was “fantastic” to get his maiden victory, but he was even more excited about the four-quarter effort he got from his team.

“I thought the way we fought the game was fantastic. With two minutes to go Darcy Parish lays a chase-down tackle in the goal square,” he said.

“That’s a great indication of the effort from the guys.

“We are not going to get that scoreboard reward all the time, but the way we played was the pleasing thing.”

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