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Don takes leave to deal with mental health

Aaron Francis has taken time away from Essendon - AFL,Essendon Bombers,Aaron Francis
Aaron Francis has taken time away from Essendon

ESSENDON'S Aaron Francis has been granted personal leave from the club for an extended period to deal with a mental health issue.

"Aaron is a wonderful young man and his decision to speak up and ask for help is extremely courageous," general manager of football Dan Richardson said.

"The club will support Aaron in any way we can, and we will give him as much time as he needs to get better. 

"He has an extremely strong network of support and we look forward to seeing him return to the club when he feels ready.

"We kindly ask that Aaron is given the appropriate time and privacy to deal with this matter."

Francis, the No.6 pick in the 2015 NAB AFL Draft, has played five games in his two seasons at the Bombers, including two last year. 

He requested a trade back to his home state of South Australia at the end of 2017 but there was limited interest from the Crows and the Power, and he remained a Bomber. 

Orazio Fantasia, a newly elected member of the Bombers' leadership group, said he and his teammates fully supported Francis as he sought to return to his best. 

"He told the boys last week he's going to take a little bit of personal time away from the footy club and obviously the footy club and the boys understand that," Fantasia told FIVEaa radio on Tuesday evening.

"Aaron is going to be a crucial part of this team so to get him right off the field is No.1.

"You know how hard the game can be even if you're in a good headspace so he's just going to take a little bit of time away from the footy club at the moment."

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Francis is contracted until the end of next year after signing a two-season extension with the Bombers in September 2016. 

Despite showing flashes of his ability, the 191cm defender has struggled to reach the fitness level required to string together senior games so far in his career.

Francis, whose brother Hayden died of cancer four years ago, was understood to be homesick when he requested a trade.

Essendon coach John Worsfold said the Bombers were "rapt" to retain the talented 20-year-old after a move home fell through. 

"Maybe at the start of trade period he felt moving back to SA was going to be best for his footy," Worsfold said in November.

"I said to him we understand all of that, we were supportive of it, we'd spoken to him leading into it that if it happens it happens, and if not we'll see how you go, and he was more than comfortable and excited with coming back."