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Star Bombers' return could squeeze out second-game hero

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ESSENDON expects star trio Orazio Fantasia, Jake Stringer and Dylan Shiel back for its Friday night clash with Hawthorn.

But the Bombers face a selection headache after their bye, with second-game sensation Dylan Clarke in danger of losing his spot despite his vital shutdown job on Carlton gun Patrick Cripps in round 11.

Stringer and Shiel have missed just one game after minor hamstring strains against Richmond in round 10 but trained on Tuesday, while Fantasia is due to return for his first game since round eight after a quad strain.

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"[Fantasia] trained on the weekend and if he ticks all the other boxes that he needs to then he'll be ready to go," coach John Worsfold said.

"Obviously we think he's in our best forward line, so potentially adding he and Stringer brings two of our starting forwards back in."

Fantasia has endured another injury-hit season, managing just six games so far. However, in his past four appearances he has booted 12 goals, showing his importance to the Bombers.

The inclusions mean there could be some unlucky omissions for Essendon after the 41-point drubbing of Carlton in round 11.


Worsfold couldn't guarantee a spot for Clarke, despite the 20-year-old limiting Cripps to just 11 disposals while gathering 23 touches and 10 tackles in the win over the Blues.

It was only Clarke's second game of his career, and first in more than a year, but the selection squeeze could force him out.

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"That's a good question [if Clarke will play]. That's really specifically around match-ups and roles that we want in the team," Worsfold said.

"There's no guarantee that we'll use a tagger this week, but that doesn't mean Dylan doesn't play regardless.

"He has played as a run-with player in the VFL, but he's also played as a ball-winner, so we'll be weighing up the best team to take on the Hawks."

Essendon faces a crunch three-week period for its finals hopes, facing top-four contenders West Coast (in Perth) and Greater Western Sydney after the Hawks clash.


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