ESSENDON is poised to regain key defender Aaron Francis for its clash against GWS.
The 23-year-old will need to get through Thursday's training session after missing last weekend's loss to Carlton with an ankle injury, but is expected to take to the field.
It will be a much-needed boost for the Bombers, who will be coming up against a Giants forward line containing the in-form Jesse Hogan (four goals against Adelaide) and Harry Himmelberg (three), as well as Toby Greene and Jeremy Finlayson.
"He'll train today, so it'll be important for him to feel confident in himself, but also give us the confidence that he'll be available and to whether he can play this week," coach Ben Rutten said.
The out-of-contract and restricted free agent Zach Merrett is set to play his 150th game on Saturday and is in ripping form, averaging a career-high 30.6 disposals and 5.6 clearances.
He's also back in the leadership group after being left out last year.
"Guys are motivated by different things, sometimes [contracts] can be a distraction for players and their performance suffers, other guys are able to go to another level, and what we've seen from Zach, he's pretty committed and invested in what we're doing," Rutten said.
"He's certainly been a really important and valuable leader for us this year, there's no doubt about that.
"We've talked about Zach last year, but last year was important growth period for Zach, and we're seeing a bit of the fruits of that this year. He's an incredible player and his influence over more people is becoming really pronounced, so we're enjoying that."
While the Bombers only have two wins on the board from seven games this year, the performance of their highly rated draftees – Archie Perkins, Nik Cox, Harrison Jones and Nick Bryan – has been very impressive.
But the club is keeping a close eye on just how much workload the players are taking on, especially after an interrupted 2020.
"It's a constant management one for us. We need to constantly look what their GPS numbers are, talking to them, making sure they're preparing the best they can," Rutten said.
"I'm finding it hard to find something that flusters some of these guys, they just love playing AFL footy. They're doing their dream job and they're loving what they're doing. There may come a time during the year that we need to look at [resting players], but we'll wait and see."
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Young key defender Zach Reid has had an unfortunate health run of late, with a bout of tonsillitis leading into glandular fever, but Rutten said he was expected back at the club next week.
"That's obviously knocked him round a little bit, interfered with his training and his preparation, but so long as he keeps progressing in the right direction, hopefully we'll see him back available soon," Rutten said.
"It's a bit unpredictable, so we've been pretty cautious with it in the early stages, make sure we get that right. He's starting to build back his jogging and get some work back into his body, but conscious we don't want that to take a downward turn."