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WITH 12 players suspended for 2016, coming up with a 22 for round one is going to be one hell of a juggling act for Essendon.

First and foremost they'll be madly looking for the allocated 10 top-up players to not only push for senior selection, but also bolster their paper-thin depth.

Aside from losing primary midfielders Jobe Watson, Dyson Heppell and Brent Stanton, perhaps the toughest area to patch over is the key defensive posts.

After trading Jake Carlisle to St Kilda – who has also been suspended – the Bombers are now without Michael Hurley and Cale Hooker.

Mitch Brown looks a ready-made replacement from the current list, while we've taken a punt on projecting three-time Hawthorn premiership star Brian Lake might want to go around for another season.

If Lake doesn't play, perhaps former Hawk and Lion Jordan Lisle, the VFL's leading goalkicker in 2015, could slot in at centre half-back to partner Brown.

It's unfair to speculate too much on exactly which top-up players will play in round one, but here's our best shot with other likely targets listed below.


B: James Gwilt, Brian Lake, Mark Baguley
HB: Courtenay Dempsey, Mitch Brown, Martin Gleeson

C: Darcy Parish, David Zaharakis, Adam Cooney
HF: Shaun Edwards, Patrick Ambrose, Zach Merrett

F: Shaun McKernan, Joe Daniher, Jayden Laverde

Foll: Matthew Leuenberger, Brendon Goddard, Craig Bird

I/C: Jackson Merrett, Aaron Francis, Orazio Fantasia, James Polkinghorne


Ryan Crowley – delisted by Fremantle after 188 games, but believes he is capable of playing on.

Mitch Golby – running defender who played the last of his 56 games for the Lions in 2015.

Aaron Heppell – brother of Dyson and played as a top-up for the Bombers in last year's NAB Challenge.

James Kelly – believed to have wanted to play on after leaving Geelong following 273 games and three flags.

Brian Lake – retired after last year's premiership but believed to have wanted to played on.

Jordan Lisle – key position player with 23 games to his name at Hawthorn and the Lions.

Brodie Martin – delisted by Adelaide after 38 games in eight seasons.

Zac O'Brien – played with Essendon VFL team in 2013 before playing two seasons with the Lions.

Jared Petrenko – former Crow who help top-up last year's NAB Challenge team.

James Polkinghorne – former Lion with 94 games experience and Essendon's VFL best and fairest winner last season.

Mathew Stokes – like Kelly retired, but understood to want to have played on

Matthew Watson – young key position player who played 23 games in five seasons at Carlton