WOUNDED Essendon faces a week of selection intrigue with four key players under injury clouds for its blockbuster against League heavyweight Richmond.
The Bombers are counting the cost of their 43-point win over St Kilda at Etihad Stadium on Friday night, with Brendon Goddard (knee), Adam Saad (concussion), Orazio Fantasia (hamstring) and Cale Hooker (knee) all in doubt for the must-win clash with the Tigers at the MCG next Friday night.
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The Bombers lost Goddard and Saad in the opening 20 minutes and were without Hooker and Fantasia for the entire last quarter.
That meant the Dons couldn't rotate any of their players in the last 30 minutes, so recovery will also be a critical issue before they face Richmond.
More pressing, though, is the fitness of the sore quartet, whose availability is crucial to Essendon's chances of slaying Richmond and keeping its slim finals hopes alive.
Goddard, Hooker and Fantasia will undergo scans to assess the extent of their problems, while Saad is expected to be sidelined.
It was initially feared Goddard had suffered a dreaded anterior cruciate rupture to his right knee – which might well have ended the 33-year-old's career – so it was with great relief that the Bombers report he had instead hyperextended the knee.
Bombers coach John Worsfold was hopeful about the veteran's chances of a swift recovery.
"Goddard felt something in his knee. He seems fine right now, he's walking around OK, so we need to find out what gave him the pain that he felt. So that's a bit of an unknown," Worsfold told reporters post-match.
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Saad seemed "all right" but was also an "unknown" after copping a big bump from Saints defender Nathan Brown that will come under scrutiny from Match Review Officer Michael Christian.
Asked what he thought of Brown's heavy contact, Worsfold said: "I only saw the replay once. It's disappointing when you lose a player from an avoidable incident."
Hooker was kept off the field as a precautionary measure after experiencing pain in his kneecap.
"He's pretty confident that he's OK," Worsfold said.
The Dons coach said he was unsure whether Fantasia had hurt the same hamstring that sidelined him in rounds 16 and 17.
"Fantasia was tight in the hamstring. It was maybe precautionary, I'm not sure. There might be something there but certainly they weren't game to put him back on," he said.
Worsfold forecast a lighter week on the training track for some players as they recover from the extra workload.
He was proud of their "wonderful" efforts to play out the game under fatigue and to obey instructions to slow the game down where possible.
The Dons now swing their focus to the Tigers, who have won a record 19 successive games at the MCG.
In their previous meeting in the 'Dreamtime at the 'G' clash, Richmond prevailed by 71 points.
"We get the chance to take the game that we've grown over this period of time to the Tigers next week and have a real crack at it," he said.