ESSENDON'S comprehensive 74-point scratch match win over a combined AFL/VFL Melbourne side has been soured by a knee injury to hard-running defender Patrick Ambrose.
The incident occurred when Ambrose attempted a flying spoil over a Melbourne opponent in the first quarter of the 16.10 (106) to 4.8 (32) win at Casey Fields on Friday.
Scans on Saturday confirmed that Ambrose suffered a posterior cruciate ligament injury. No timeframe has been set on his return yet.
The club will meet with a specialist in coming days to further assess the injury.
The Bombers already have a lengthy injury list, with the likes of Michael Hurley (shoulder), Dyson Heppell (foot), Cale Hooker (hip), Tom Bellchambers (knee), Joe Daniher (groin), Mitch Hibberd (knee), James Stewart (groin) and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (calf) already in the casualty ward.
In better news, David Zaharakis made a strong return from knee surgery, booting two goals and spending time in the midfield and up forward during the first half before resting in the second.
Andrew McGrath has spent most of his fledgling career across half-back but spent the vast majority of the first half on the ball, often getting first hands to it and feeding to teammates in the clear.
Slicing through the corridor ?? pic.twitter.com/w1TJFjtjiU— Essendon FC (@essendonfc) February 21, 2020
He swapped out with Darcy Parish after the main break, the latter looking particularly sharp around stoppages and working well up and down the ground. Brayden Ham also found plenty of the footy.
Senior-coach-in-waiting Ben Rutten was the one to address the group at the quarter and three-quarter time breaks, with John Worsfold taking a back seat.
PRE-SEASON FIXTURE Check out your team's Marsh Community Series games
"We got exactly what we wanted out of the game, we wanted to get some kms into some of the older guys' legs and have a look at some of the younger kids in different positions," assistant coach James Kelly said.
"There's been a change in the coaching structure, but the fundamentals and the gameplan really haven't changed that much. Hopefully we improve a lot this year on the fundamentals we put in place last year, but time will tell."
Effort in defence.— Essendon FC (@essendonfc) February 21, 2020
Reward in attack. pic.twitter.com/CcEOVbUDj0
Recruit Tom Cutler looks to be more than a handy pick-up for the Bombers; the former Lion was a strong presence on the wing, setting up several players on the lead with long and accurate kicks.
He had several eye-catching highlights in a best-on-ground performance, including a casual inside-of-the-boot soccer kick which resulted in a goal, and later handballing over his opponent to himself on the wing.
LIST RATINGS Roos' shock rise, Dogs tipped to shine
The club's first selection in the 2019 NAB AFL Draft, Harrison Jones, was lively in the first quarter in particular, showing an excellent pair of hands in attack, while Jayden Laverde was also a strong presence in attack with three goals.
Coming up trumps again ??— Essendon FC (@essendonfc) February 21, 2020
Laverde's got the appetite. pic.twitter.com/jkOh1Fbjo6
The Bombers have had three players – Nathan Ireland (who didn't play), Brynn Teakle and Nigel Lockyer – trialing in the hopes of being selected as a rookie in the supplemental selection period.
Aside from a neat one-handed pick-up, Lockyer didn't have an enormous impact at half-back (although the ball didn't get down there with any regularity) and ruck Teakle showed a nice leap and deft touch at bounces, mostly opposed to Demons rookie Austin Bradtke.
STATE OF ORIGIN TEAMS Check out the star-laden Vic v All-Stars squads
He also pushed forward and kicked a goal late in the piece.
With Melbourne set to start its 2020 Marsh Community Series campaign on Saturday against Adelaide, the club fielded just eight AFL-listed players: Jayden Hunt, Oskar Baker, Marty Hore, Jay Lockhart, Toby Bedford, James Jordan, Trent Rivers and Bradtke.
Hunt was lively, playing around a half, while Bradtke had an impact in the ruck.
Midfielder Rivers, who Melbourne took with pick No.32 in the NAB AFL Draft last year, stepped around several opponents to kick a classy major in the final term after the Dees were held goalless in the third term.
MELBOURNE 0.3 3.4 3.6 4.8 (32)
ESSENDON 4.2 6.3 10.5 16.10 (106)
Melbourne: Rivers, McCaffrey (VFL), Briggs (VFL), White (VFL)
Essendon: Laverde 3, Zaharakis 2, Cutler 2, Fantasia 2, Landt (VFL) 2, Ham, Jones, Snelling, Begley, Teakle (potential SSP rookie)