WEDNESDAY loomed as a crucial day in Essendon skipper Dyson Heppell's bid to face North Melbourne on Saturday as the Bombers' fight to break into the top eight.
But the Bombers star didn't train with the main group, instead standing on the sidelines in full tracksuit, playing with a soccer ball and occasionally signing autographs for fans.
It leaves him in doubt to overcome the foot injury that ruled him out of Essendon's win over Sydney last week and forced him into wearing a moonboot.
Coach John Worsfold said earlier on Wednesday that it would be a vital day for Heppell to prove his fitness.
"Obviously, there's a process he has to undertake but we hope he'll be ready to go," Worsfold said.
"In terms of selection for this week, [it is an important session]. Depending how he goes, if it was really sore we'd probably rule him out today, but if it's still progressing, then we may give him an extra couple of days.
"We won't know until we see what he does today."
The Bombers believe Heppell will need to manage the injury for the rest of the season, having dealt with the niggle at different stages over the past month.
Defender Michael Hurley is also in some doubt after having scans on his hip this week, but Worsfold said the backman will be available to play.
Cale Hooker (back soreness) has also been cleared to play in the clash, which shapes as an important one in the Bombers' hopes of a finals spot after claiming four wins from their past five games.
Star swingman Cale Hooker should right to take on North. Picture: AFL Photos
North Melbourne will have the advantage in the ruck, with Essendon's department hit with injuries to Tom Bellchambers (calf) and Sam Draper (knee).
But after having only five disposals in last week's win over Sydney, the Bombers will stick with ruck back-up Zac Clarke against Roos big man Todd Goldstein.
"Zac is aware of what he's going to be up against. All we can ask is for Zac is to play his role for the team and give a good contest," Worsfold said.
"It wasn't surprising that [Clarke's] best quarter was the last quarter. He started to get into the groove of the game. He's been a team player the last six weeks and hasn't played a lot of footy, and he's obviously coming off a year where he didn't play any AFL footy.
"I'm confident he'll be able to improve with more game time and give us a good contest."