DYSON Heppell has braved freezing conditions at Essendon on Wednesday to complete an early-morning session away from the main group as he recovers from a cold.
The Bombers skipper was seen departing the club just after 9am, an hour before the club's main session, having already tested the fitness of his sore foot with club officials earlier in the morning.
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His availability for Saturday's crucial clash with Port Adelaide will subsequently depend on "a bit of both" in terms of his foot and his illness, according to coach John Worsfold.
Dyson Heppell pulled up sore after the game against the Crows. Picture: AFL Photos
"He's not too bad," the Bombers coach said. "He's actually got a little bit of a cold today, so that's why he's trained a little bit earlier. We thought we'd get that done and get him out of here.
"I'll get a report on how he felt with his running and where he's at later on today. I'm not going to anticipate anything, because I just don't know.
"As I did last week, I'll wait until we hear how he is. When I hear he's no good, we obviously move on and select the team. I'll wait until I get the final call later today."
Heppell has been managed through the last month due to his foot problem, missing Sunday evening's narrow 10-point victory over Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium.
Essendon is confident it can continue to nurse the important midfielder through the remainder of the season despite his genetic foot issue, saying it has put off sending him for surgery as the club looks forward to its upcoming finals campaign.
"We're trying to make it sustainable," Worsfold said.
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"We could've ruled him out and fixed his foot with surgery four weeks ago and his season would have been over. But it's not one of those injuries that we can't manage through.
"If it pulls up alright, he can still get some more footy in, so that's the plan."
There is good news on the injury front for Essendon, with lively forward Orazio Fantasia set to return from a fortnight on the sidelines due to a hip injury.
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However, the Bombers are predicting he will need to undergo surgery to correct the issue at season's end.
"He's going really well," Worsfold said.
"I'm confident he'll be right to go this week.
"Our understanding is that it is something that will need to be corrected at the end of the season. It's not common, but there are a lot of players who have had that surgery.
"Absolutely, we'll manage him through it. It's like all of these niggles, you don't know how they'll pull up after games, so we can't predict that. But we'll manage it as best as we can."