Herald Sun

Fletcher los­ing fight to get fit

- GLENN McFAR­LANE glenn.mcfar­lane@news.com.au

ESSENDON de­fender Dustin Fletcher is still ex­pe­ri­enc­ing groin sore­ness and is at least a fort­night away from a pos­si­ble re­turn, with coach James Hird con­ced­ing there is a slim chance he might not play again this year.

Fletcher hasn’t played since he be­came only the third AFL player to reach 400 games, against Rich­mond in Round 9.

The 40-year-old is al­most cer­tainly in his last sea­son of AFL af­ter ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a few is­sues with his body this year.

But the club hopes he can over­come his sore­ness and re­turn to the team at some stage next month.

Speak­ing be­fore tonight’s clash with North Mel­bourne at Eti­had Sta­dium, Hird said the Bombers des­per­ately wanted Fletcher to re­turn and would give him ev­ery chance of play­ing again this year.

“We’re not sure (but) ‘Fletch’ is a cou­ple of weeks away,” Hird said.

“We have to get him fit first and then we will look at mak­ing a de­ci­sion on whether he plays.

“He hopes he plays again and so do we, and ... Essendon sup­port­ers hope he plays at least once more.”

Asked if Fletcher may have played his fi­nal AFL game, Hird said: “I think it is only (a) small (chance), but I would say that he would play (again).

“But his (groin is) still pretty sore, so we have to get that right be­fore we even think about play­ing.”

Paul Chap­man, 33, is likely to re­sume in the VFL this week­end.

Hird had his own is­sues this week af­ter suf­fer­ing con­cus­sion in a bi­cy­cle ac­ci­dent in Toorak on Mon­day, but in­sisted he will be OK to coach tonight.

“I feel good; I feel ready to go, not that you need to be that good to coach, but I am ready to coach,” he said.

“It is all good and (I’m) ready ... it was an un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent. It was a bit scary at the time, but it is time to move on and to move on with footy.”

Essendon last night ruled out Alex Browne (con­cus­sion) to face North, re­plac­ing him with young­ster Kyle Lang­ford.

Hird said he would con­tinue to put his faith in the young group that beat Mel­bourne last Satur­day, say­ing they would de­rive con­fi­dence from the win.

He ac­knowl­edged the play­ers had to limit North’s use of the ball, say­ing the Kan­ga­roos were very hard to stop once they got go­ing.

He said Joe Dani­her’s con­fi­dence was high af­ter kick­ing five goals straight last week.

 ?? Pic­ture: COLLEEN PETCH ?? Essendon fans will be laugh­ing along with Joe Dani­her if he can kick straight against North Mel­bourne tonight
(see anal­y­sis, right).
Pic­ture: COLLEEN PETCH Essendon fans will be laugh­ing along with Joe Dani­her if he can kick straight against North Mel­bourne tonight (see anal­y­sis, right).
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia