FORGOTTEN forward James Stewart is edging closer to a long-awaited return, with Essendon set to recall the former Giant in an effort to solve its key-position dilemma in attack.
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Stewart hasn't played at senior level since round 11, 2018, with a potential return for Friday night's heavyweight clash with Brisbane at Metricon Stadium likely to end his 790-day wait for AFL action.
A wounded Bombers forward line will be without Joe Daniher (groin), Jake Stringer (ankle), Jayden Laverde (ankle), Orazio Fantasia (calf) and Cale Hooker (calf) for a pivotal encounter with the Lions, leading to Stewart's potential inclusion.
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Essendon had just three players feature in a combined scratch match with Carlton, Richmond and Melbourne last week, but had a further 10 reserves players rested to enhance their chances of featuring in the coming weeks.
"We need to look at who we've got available to come in," Bombers coach John Worsfold said on Wednesday.
"James, definitely, we now feel as though he's ready to go. We'll certainly consider whether he fits into the lineup that we want to run with this week.
"We've got some other scenarios. We'll look at playing a ruckman as another tall who will spend time in the forward line. That's something we've been considering over a number of weeks and we'll give that some consideration again."
Sam Draper is also a chance to potentially make his AFL debut this week, with Essendon weighing up whether to take the risk of blooding the talented young ruckman against a Brisbane team without first-choice talls Stefan Martin and Archie Smith.
Draper, 21, ruptured his ACL last year but has made a successful recovery, and could be the ruck option suggested by Worsfold to partner Tom Bellchambers while pinch-hitting in the forward line.
"We like to minimise any risk when we name players and we generally won't name players unless we think they're ready to go," Worsfold said.
"We played Ned Cahill a couple of weeks ago for his first game. He hadn't played any footy this year and he hadn't played AFL before.
"A lot of players are making their debuts in different circumstances and a lot of players are coming back from long-term injuries in different circumstances. But clubs manage them really well and prepare them as well as they can to minimise any risks.
"The first priority is their health, and we make sure that they're physically fit and ready to go to cope with AFL footy. Form is a different question. If you wanted a guarantee of how every player that you ever bring in is going to perform, you'd never bring them in."