ESSENDON is confident Dyson Heppell will return from his back injury to face the unbeaten Sydney on Thursday night, but the skipper still needs to prove his fitness before the SCG trip.  

Heppell missed Essendon’s first victory of the year against St Kilda with a back complaint, the same injury that saw him a late omission against the Power in round two.

Veteran midfielder David Zaharakis is now available for selection after two VFL practice matches.

Coach Ben Rutten said Heppell was tracking well for a return to the top level, but needed to confirm his place by getting through the session before the clash.

Dyson Heppell leads his side off the ground after round one. Picture: AFL Photos

"He's been improving all the time, he'll train today and if he gets through that fine, he'll be available for selection. If he plays, he'll play AFL," Rutten said.

Zaharakis, who hasn’t played since round 10, 2020, has fully recovered from a posterior cruciate ligament injury that saw him miss a large chunk of the pre-season, with a strong performance in the VFL putting him in contention to face the Swans on Thursday night.

"He's got through another game in the VFL, it's great to have him available and up and going again," Rutten said.

David Zaharakis at an Essendon training session on March 18, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

The club has also had good news on Mason Redman, with scans positive on the hamstring injury that saw him subbed off against the Saints on Saturday, with his coach positive on his potential return against Sydney.

"He's had a scan the other day and it hasn’t come back as a confirmed tear which is good," Rutten said.

"We probably took a conservative approach with him. There were some concerns on the day that he might've had a bit of a strain there, but he'll train today, and we’ll see how he pulls up."

Jake Stringer, who returned to kick four goals in Essendon’s demolition of St Kilda, will continue to split his time between midfield and attack as the Bombers look to crash Sydney's 3-0 start to the season.

"He's obviously dangerous around the ball and we've played him a little bit in the centre bounce on the weekend because we think he’s got some real value. He'll probably play majority forward after that. As his fitness increases we’ll see how that plays out," Rutten said.