ESSENDON is hopeful spearhead Joe Daniher will lead a full complement of players available for the start of the AFL season after he stepped pre-season season training.
Daniher, who played just seven games last season while battling a groin injury, briefly took part in a match simulation on Wednesday.
The 24-year-old’s increased training load has given the Bombers cause for cheer after several key players suffered pre-season mishaps.
Small forward Orazio Fantasia injured his little finger after getting it caught in a teammate’s jumper, Zach Merrett sprained his ankle and spent almost a fortnight in a moon boot and Cale Hooker suffered a minor hamstring strain.
Fantasia, who is likely to recommence full training in coming weeks, says Daniher’s return has been exciting for Essendon’s forwards.
“He brings that energy, he’s a very passionate leader and he’s probably the strongest communicator in our forward line,” Fantasia told reporters on Thursday.
“He helps us set up, so he’s crucial.
“He’s running quite well. Especially with Joey, a Rolls-Royce type player, you’ve got to be careful and you don’t want to bring him back too fast and re-injure him.
“Hopefully, touch wood, everyone will be right for round one. That’s what it’s looking like and that’s the most important time of the year.”
Fantasia’s finger remains strapped but he expects to play in the pre-season competition starting February 28.
Importantly, the damaging goalsneak has been able to take part in drills and maintain a strong fitness base compared to last year’s disrupted pre-season.
“Last year I had my knee injury and then didn’t start running until January or February which sort of put me pretty far behind,” said Fantasia, speaking at the launch of a partnership between Essendon and the Australian Grand Prix Corporation.
“I was trying to catch up and had no base. Luckily with this injury, I was still able to run and get that base in and the body’s feeling really good.”
© AAP 2019