ESSENDON will support veteran Michael Hurley's push to return from his debilitating hip injury as the Bombers head into the off-season with a fit list.
Hurley missed all of this year after a pre-season hip infection saw him sent to hospital and lose more than 10 kilograms.
The 31-year-old is contracted for next year and adamant at trying to get back onto the field after the severe injury that rocked the Bombers on the eve of the 2021 season.
Coach Ben Rutten said the club would do everything it could to assist in the recovery for Hurley, who had been training as a key forward last pre-season before the injury.
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"'Hurls' is not far off getting a little procedure on his hip to just help out with the joint surface and I think that's something that's been earmarked for a little while now but we're waiting on getting the health of his hip to be stable enough for that," Rutten told AFL.com.au.
"I think that's earmarked for the not-too-distant future. Hopefully with that he can build up and progress and hopefully he gets back to playing some footy. I know he's really keen on that and he's ambitious about that and we're going to support him with that the best we can."
Hurley was a joint vice-captain of the Bombers this year and Rutten said the two-time Therabody AFL All-Australian had been an important member of the squad with his off-field role in 2021, with Essendon spending plenty of time on the road throughout the season.
"The other impact that Hurls really had throughout the season was with the coaching he did and as a bit of a mentor for a lot of our players," Rutten said.
"It took him a couple of weeks to get his head around not having an influence on the field that he likes to have but the impact he started to have he started coaching with our VFL practice match games and he's a really important member of our playing squad."
Aside from Hurley's follow-up hip operation, Rutten said the only other Bomber to have gone under the knife was young forward Harrison Jones, who had foot surgery in August.
Jones missed the last six games of the season after a hot spot was discovered in his foot and although he attempted to return for the finals, he was ultimately ruled out and put in for surgery.
Rutten said his group would hit pre-season in a healthy position after their elimination final exit against the Western Bulldogs in his first season at the helm.
"Outside of Hurls, 'Jonesy' had a recent operation but after that I don't think we've got any operations booked in so we're really hopeful that we'll hit the ground with pretty well a full squad," he said.
"'Jonesy' might be a couple of weeks behind and Hurls obviously but I think we'll be pretty healthy which is such a big advantage to start a pre-season and build some of that chemistry."
Youngster Zach Reid suffered a back stress fracture in July and was ruled out for the rest of the season but is expected to be fit for the pre-season.