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Dons confident on trio as Tigers lose stars

Trade winds ramp up early Footy Feed with Nat Edwards, Mitch Cleary and Jen Phelan

ESSENDON expects key trio Cale Hooker, Brendon Goddard and Adam Saad to be available for Friday night's crunch clash with reigning premiers Richmond.

Saad trained with the main group on Thursday, six days after being concussed by a nasty high bump from St Kilda's Nathan Brown.

Hooker and Goddard (knee) were absent but trained on Wednesday and are tipped to line up at the MCG, with the 11th-placed Bombers still a chance to sneak into the top eight.

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Richmond has ruled out captain Trent Cotchin and key defender David Astbury, who are battling hamstring and Achilles soreness respectively, while Dion Prestia and Kane Lambert are also out.

Bombers skipper Dyson Heppell, who is set to play his 150th AFL game on Friday night, says the Tigers remain a formidable opponent.

"I don't know if I've played them in my time without those guys, but I guess it's not about one player," Heppell told reporters.

 

"They've got amazing consistency right throughout that side.

"To test yourselves against the best side, who have been super this year, is what you want."

Essendon must post big wins in both their remaining games and have other results fall its way to stand a chance of making the top eight.

The Bombers have won nine of their last 12 games after a poor start to the year and Heppell can see plenty of positives even if they fall short of finals.

"It was a disappointing start to the season, but I feel we've got a hell of a lot to gain from the remainder of the year," he said.

"We've found our game-style and what really stacks up against the best sides. We've got a bunch of guys that are willing to play their role.

"We've found some real depth and consistency right throughout the list and a lot of guys have stepped up and played important roles for us."