ESSENDON is hopeful Jason Winderlich will be available for round one, despite the veteran's training being restricted by back soreness in recent weeks.

The 30-year-old completed most of the Bombers' pre-season block before Christmas in strong form, but has been eased through recent workloads as he deals with pain in his back.

Winderlich has had ongoing back troubles throughout his 128 games for the Bombers, but Essendon football manager of high performance Neil Craig said the club expects him to be available to face the Sydney Swans in its season-opener.     

"Jason's had a well-documented back issue for a long part of his career, but he's back running and he's in a slow build-up," Craig told

"[With] everything going well, our aim is to get him ready for round one."

Craig said the club was in the process of ramping up Winderlich's program, and that he would target a return against Melbourne in the Bombers' final NAB Challenge game on Friday, March 20. 

"Ideally he would be ready [to play against Melbourne], but we wouldn't be overly concerned if he's not," he said. 

"It's more about making sure he's pain-free and he's been able to do the workload. He's an experienced player, he's a high-quality player, he knows the game plan really well, so I'm sure (coach) James [Hird] wouldn't be overly concerned if he didn't play NAB Challenge. 

"That would be ideal for every player [to play], but we wouldn't do that at the expense of him being ready for round one."

Winderlich's fitness battles were the impetus behind his decision to announce his retirement for the end of last season.

However, after a brilliant patch of form that helped lift the club into the finals, Winderlich reversed his call and chose to play on.

He was then involved in an interesting exchange period, after requesting to be traded out of Essendon before reconsidering and committing to a 13th season in the red and black. 

He offers the Bombers some class and speed near goal and last year kicked 15 goals, but under stand-in coach Mark Thompson, Winderlich also spent time as a rebounding half-back. 

Craig said he would continue to be used in a variety of roles in 2015.

"He fits into a similar category to [Michael] Hurley and [Jake] Carlisle, which gives us great flexibility," he said.

"He's obviously a slightly different player to those two guys, he doesn't play as tall, but his capacity to play as a loose defender and be offensive out of defence [is valuable]. 

"And you need to be on your best behaviour if you're going to stand Jason Winderlich up forward because he'll kick goals on you, so he's an important player for us."