Fletcher losing fight to get fit
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.