ESSENDON coach John Worsfold doesn't know which will come first – the vaccine for COVID-19 or Joe Daniher's return to the field.
The star Bomber is inching closer to a comeback this season after his debilitating groin injuries but won't face Richmond in Essendon's Dreamtime clash against Richmond at TIO Stadium on Saturday night.
ROUNDS 13-18 Check out the full fixture
The outgoing Bombers coach said he doesn't know when Daniher would play his first game of 2020.
"Joey's going great. I've made this point for a number of weeks, but it's a race with Joe and the COVID vaccine. We ask every week about it and we're waiting to see which one is going to come to fruition first," Worsfold said.
The Bombers have won only one of their past six games, and their two wins since round six have come against the two bottom sides on the ladder – North Melbourne and Adelaide.
Worsfold's five-year stint at the helm at the Bombers will come to an end this season, having taken over the Bombers ahead of their 2016 season when their season was wiped out by ASADA bans.
THE LADDER Where is your team sitting?
They made the finals the following season, and again in 2019, but will likely miss the top eight if they can't beat the Tigers in their Darwin meeting.
Worsfold has handed over the reins to senior coach-in-waiting Ben Rutten and assistant Blake Caracella, and he said that the fallout from the doping saga – including a $1 million fine from the AFL and being stripped of three draft picks in 2013-14 – had taken time to overcome.
"The first two years at the club was about just keeping the club grounded. Keeping the club alive, really. It was under a lot of pressure and we had a lot of players we had to support through pretty drastic times," he said.
"In the last two years I think we've made some great inroads. We played finals [and] to do that within such a short period of time of being smashed with fines and draft picks gone, I think that's beaten most other clubs that have ever been hit with such penalties.
"I'd say the Essendon Football Club has achieved really well. This is the third year post a lot of the dramas that we had to work through and it's the first year of a new game plan coached by Ben Rutten and Blake Caracella. So from where we're at, I think we're making big inroads and it's only going to continue to get better quickly."
The 2006 West Coast premiership coach said the Bombers had made strides this season by finding out more about their young batch of players and that the club's newly introduced game plan has stacked up at stages.
He said their position as 11th on the ladder heading into the round wasn't reflective of the talent on the Bombers' list if not for injuries.
THE FULL INJURY LIST Who is racing the clock?
"We haven't been able to put what we would say is our best 22 out on the field for probably no games this year. Our best 22 would be outperforming where we currently are, no doubt about that," he said.
"We're excited about when we see that happen and that may not be this year but when we get that best team out there it's going to be really exciting and people should be looking forward to that."