JOE DANIHER continues to make progress from his debilitating groin injury, with Essendon coach John Worsfold saying the goalkicker could be ready for "round two" in the AFL's reworked fixture.
The 2017 Virgin Australia AFL All Australian forward and Bombers best and fairest was considered unlikely to play until at least mid-year as he battled the osteitis pubis issues that have plagued him since 2018.
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However as a result of the AFL's response to the COVID-19 outbreak, football has been placed on hold until at least June.
Daniher had been stepping up his training at the club before the League-wide shutdown hit last month, including increasing his running, and Worsfold said the time off could work in the 26-year-old's favour.
"He's allowed access to a physiotherapist through their practice, so that offers him the on-going support and program that he was doing," Worsfold said on Wednesday.
"Obviously what it means is that Joe might not have been available until round whatever it is – five, six, seven or eight – [but now] potentially he's going to be available for round two, which I'd be pretty excited about if I was Joe.
"He misses less footy than he potentially would have, and I'm sure that's what he's focusing on. As are players like Cale Hooker and Dyson Heppell who had resigned themselves to missing some rounds of footy this year and potentially may not miss too much."
Heppell (foot) and Hooker (hip) joined Daniher on the sidelines for the Bombers' round one win over Fremantle.
Daniher is out of contract this year and will qualify as a free agent after last year's failed trade request to Sydney.
Worsfold, whose 14-day isolation period ends on Tuesday after heading home to Perth, said he had been in contact with players throughout the past three weeks since games were paused.
Included in that group is Conor McKenna, with the star half-back one of three Irish Bombers to have headed home once the AFL announced its season would be stopped.
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It came only weeks after McKenna, who finished fourth in the Bombers' best and fairest last year, returned to Melbourne following a stint in Ireland to deal with homesickness.
The important Bomber had admitted he would assess his AFL future at the end of 2020, but Worsfold said he believed McKenna would be back this year.
"I'm pretty confident. It's not the end of 2020 yet. There's a lot of footy left to be played hopefully this season. I think Conor was up and ready to go," he said.
"My expectation is that he's really keen and he'll be over there following a training program and looking forward to getting back over here and getting into it."
Worsfold, who will hand over the senior coaching job to Ben Rutten at the end of 2020, said the club would deal with border restrictions and regulations around travel when necessary.
"It was the right thing to do [to let them go back to Ireland], and when everything starts to open up our expectation is if they're allowed to come back and get into it, we'll get them back.
"If they have to go into two weeks of quarantine when they come back, they'll do that. So much of that is out of our control."
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After giving the Bombers some space in recent weeks to continue their training program, the club will be step up some of its instructional coaching to bed down the game plan during the break.
"The players I've spoken to are saying 'Yeah, we really want to start to look at some footy'. We won't overload them, we'll just send through small bits every few days for them to assess and pull apart and share their learnings with each other," Worsfold said.