ESSENDON expects skipper Dyson Heppell to play against Sydney this week, although the midfielder has to get through the club's training to prove he has overcome his foot issues.
The Bombers captain missed round one after his off-season foot surgery, and has since had some setbacks in his recovery from the injury.
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He had aimed to play in the first month of the regular season before it was suspended due to COVID-19 and now, with footy's restart only days away, is closing in on a return.
Coach John Worsfold said Heppell was likely to face the Swans at the SCG on Sunday in Essendon's return to the field.
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"I do expect him to play, yes, but that doesn't guarantee him that he's going to play. We've got to work through where his preparation is at and where it fits with the roles we've been using different players in," Worsfold said on Wednesday.
"I'm looking forward to [doing] that this afternoon."
There's doubt on Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti's place in Essendon's forward line as the Bombers battle again having an injury-hit attack.
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With spearhead Joe Daniher already missing indefinitely due to his groin struggles, and livewire Orazio Fantasia ruled out with a quad strain, McDonald-Tipungwuti added to their concerns after rolling his ankle in the club's scratch match last weekend.
The Bombers are still holding out hope the brilliant small forward could play this week.
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"He presented really well yesterday and it means he's not ruled out," Worsfold said.
"Obviously he has to pass a few tests but we're not going to put him through that until as late as possible.
"Originally I just ruled him out from what I expected from what I saw, but it's come up a lot better than that."
The Bombers' leading goalkicker of the past two seasons, Jake Stringer, is also battling a toe injury, but is expected to play.
They are considering using dashing Irish defender Conor McKenna in attack – where he wants to play – to fill Fantasia's role, while Mason Redman has been cleared to play after completing an individual training session on Sunday.
Essendon hasn't beaten the Swans in Sydney since 2009, but will fly to the Harbour City on Sunday morning ahead of the clash keen to start a season with two straight wins for the first time since 2017.