Dylan Shiel ahead of Essendon's game against Port Adelaide in R16, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

CLASSY Essendon midfielder Dylan Shiel still has no timeline on his return from the foot injury that hampered his 2023 campaign.

The 30-year-old played just 12 games last year and was starting sub for his final two matches of the season in rounds 16 and 17 after being troubled on and off by the issue throughout the season.

The former Giant had surgery during the off-season and concedes his recovery has been a slow one.

"It's getting better every week, which is good. It's been a slow journey over this pre-season, but fortunately I'm making some good ground," Shiel said.

"It's probably too soon to be rolling out and playing just yet. We haven't got a hard time on it yet, we're making sure I can get the foot right, get the body OK, so then when I declare myself fit to play, I'm ready to perform. 

"If that's a practice game, round one, great. And if it's not, we'll just take it as it is."

Dylan Shiel leaves the ground during Essendon's clash against Brisbane in round nine, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Shiel has completed specialised training to help strengthen and protect his foot, and while he hasn't had to drastically change his footwear choices, orthotics have been added to the mix.

Foot injuries also affect running loads, and while Shiel utilised the weight-bearing AlterG treadmill, he has missed a chunk of full pre-season training in an attempt to not overload the area.

"[I've been] working on the intrinsic muscles of the foot to make sure certain parts of the foot aren't being exposed," Shiel said.

"I've been doing a mountain of work that doesn't get me too much credibility in the gym with how much weight I've been shifting [but] it's important work that I'm doing.

"You can't run on your hands, I've discovered, so you can't avoid the feet. They're a delicate part of the body, and you need to be really listening to the experts on how to come back. 

"Managing how often you can train per week, making sure you have the right footwear in place, making sure you're not walking your dog for two hours on your day off is pretty helpful as well. But I've been progressing really well (and) had no setbacks during the recovery time."

Dylan Shiel poses for a photo during Essendon's official team photo day at the Hangar on February 13, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

St Kilda came knocking over the trade period, but Shiel has remained at Tullamarine.

"To be honest, I wasn't looking at it. It was a surprise when the media reported it. I was enjoying my off-season with the family," Shiel said.

"It's an interesting time of the year when as a footy club and a player where you're taking two weeks where you really have to think about what you're doing with your life and career. 

"There was the opportunity to move to the Saints, that's been reported. It would have been a more convenient drive from home, I live just around the corner there. But fortunately, I'm still here. 

"This is where I've always wanted to be. I've been really clear with the club how committed I am in helping this club where it wants to be, and I'm excited."

Despite the serious nature of the injury, Shiel thinks he can get back to his best.


"I believe I still have plenty of football left in me. That's why I'm still here, giving my best every day with everything I do in my training, in the meetings, even in my recovery and trying to help others get better around the club," he said.

"I don't think anyone would come out and not try and give it their best or try to give it their best. It's certainly the mindset I've taken, every year is a chance to have a career-best year. 

"[Coach] Brad [Scott] has been really encouraging to guys taking that approach, even if they've been around for more than a decade."