Sam Draper chats to Brad Scott after the R9 match between Essendon and GWS at Marvel Stadium on May 11, 2024. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

SAM Draper looks set to return to Essendon's AFL side as the Bombers face some "selection dilemmas" ahead of their clash with West Coast.

The club expects to have ruckman Draper, wingman Xavier Duursma (quad), defender Mason Redman (hamstring) and midfielder Ben Hobbs (calf) available to return from injury layoffs for Sunday's meeting with the Eagles. All four trained with the group at Thursday's main session. 

Draper has had an injury-hit season, having to play VFL early in the year after an off-season ruined by groin surgery before more recent knee surgery.

But coach Brad Scott indicated the aggressive big man would likely be back for the clash as the Eagles regain co-captain Oscar Allen from his own knee injury. 

"We're probably in the same boat as West Coast, if you talk about Oscar Allen and Sam Draper. They've probably by all accounts been ready for some footy at some level but with byes, VFL byes and those sort of things he wasn't able to play last week, but he's been ready to play," Scott said. 

"I think he's more likely to play AFL than VFL and it'll be a question on if he plays, he will play AFL or if he doesn't play AFL he won't play at all." 

Sam Draper celebrates a goal during the R7 match between Essendon and Collingwood at the MCG on April 25, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Essendon's availability is at one of its strongest points of the season as it comes off the mid-year bye, with only Darcy Parish (calf) and Zach Reid (pectoral) missing, with the Bombers contemplating a number of tough calls at selection.

"The more I work through it, the harder it gets. As we always do, we'll get through the main session and get all the information we need to make a final decision but we're in a good position where we definitely have selection dilemmas and good dilemmas where we've got players who deserve to be picked in the AFL side who unfortunately won't be this week," Scott said.

Essendon's poor conversion of inside-50 entries and inaccuracy in front of goal has been costly in its past two defeats to Gold Coast and Carlton before the bye, with the club spending plenty of time on the finishing touches this week.


"Probably the frustration for us is that if you're not kicking accurately the first thing I personally look at is where you are taking those shots from and what sort of pressure they're under, and we've generally been taking pretty high-quality shots and missing, so that puts paid to that part of it," Scott said.  

"We've had a good refresher on the mental preparation, the pre-shot routine and a hell of a lot of actual physical training on goalkicking this week and last week so that gives us a really good opportunity with the bye to do that." 

Essendon can reclaim a top-three spot on the ladder with a win over 17th-placed West Coast but Scott said any thoughts of the finals possibilities have not been reinforced during the club's week off.

"All we've done is created an opportunity for ourselves in the first half of the year. I think we should have an awareness of that and not close our eyes and put our fingers in our ears and try and pretend it's not happening. But in elite sport you have to focus on process and all the things that get you to the point we're at right now," he said.

"There's huge risk in speculating and dreaming about what's possible. I think you can have an awareness of what's possible but if you take your eye off the ball for a second in this competition you get exposed."