ESSENDON is confident James Hird's possible return to the club next month will not be a distraction for its players as they push to play finals.

Hird, who was banned for 12 months for his role in the Bombers' supplements scandal, is able to return to the club on August 25, but the coaches have not discussed what role he will play.  

It has been reported that Essendon officials discussed Hird’s possible presence in the coaches’ box on Thursday.

Coach Mark Thompson skipped his scheduled media conference on Friday because of a meeting with the players, with senior assistant Simon Goodwin stepping in.

Auld departs Suns for AFL executive team

Goodwin said the players' mental strength would ensure their season was not affected by Hird's return, scheduled for the week leading up to their round 23 clash with Carlton.

"They love James, they love having him around the footy club, but whether it's a distraction or not, I don't think it will be," Goodwin said.  

“This playing group has been able to be so resilient over such a long period of time, they'll get on with trying to perform and be the best group they possibly can be.”

Hird has been studying in France and is expected to return to Melbourne later this month.

Essendon chairman Paul Little in February said Hird would be welcomed back for the round 23 clash and would be "very surprised if Mark (Thompson) didn’t invite him into the box because of the contribution he will make".

Goodwin said he had not been part of any discussions around Hird's return.

"I think when James gets back … he'll sit down with the footy club and discuss the best role for the footy club," Goodwin said.  

"Whether that's coming straight back into the fold or whether that's holding out till the end of the year, we'll just have to wait and see."

This week, Goodwin said the Bombers were preparing for "a really competitive" Western Bulldogs side that has won three of its past five matches, including last Saturday's win over Gold Coast in Cairns.   

Half-back Michael Hibberd will definitely return after missing two matches with an ankle injury, Goodwin said, along with Brendon Goddard, who has served a one-match suspension.

Captain Jobe Watson, meanwhile, received positive news when visiting his hip surgeon on Thursday and is on track to play later this season.

"We're really hopeful that he's actually going to come back and perform for us in the last two or three games," Goodwin said.  

"His body is healing in the right manner and we are going to see him again this year.

"He's into a lot of running, three-quarter pace and even up to 90 per cent."

Goodwin, who interviewed for the Brisbane Lions' top job last year, said becoming a senior coach was still his ambition.

With Lenny Hayes and Cameron Ling seen as candidates to succeed Paul Roos at Melbourne, Goodwin said he believed it was important to serve an apprenticeship.

"I'm in no rush and I want to make sure I've gathered all the skills required to put my best foot forward in any role," he said.  

"It's a big role, it's a big task … I think sometimes an apprenticeship is a good thing."