ESSENDON will welcome back Jake Stringer for Saturday's clash with Brisbane at Marvel Stadium as the Bombers attempt to rebound from their season-opening humiliation.
Stringer missed last week's 66-point loss to Geelong with a groin issue that had also affected his pre-season.
The 27-year-old's return is a vital boost for Essendon after they lost Kyle Langford to a long-term hamstring injury and five-goal debutant Nic Martin to the AFL's health and safety protocols.
Stringer booted 41 goals last season while also spending important stints in the midfield, and it's a role he looks set to repeat against the Lions.
Essendon's midfield copped a smashing at the hands of Geelong last week and Bombers coach Ben Rutten says Stringer will have a licence of sorts to put himself in the middle when needed.
"We understand we want him at both ends of the ground (forward and midfield). That will come into calculations a little bit," Rutten said.
"He'll tell us what he likes. He knows the game, he knows his body. Jake has got a great feel for the game."
Essendon was being touted as a premiership hope at the start of the season, but last week's train wreck of a display has dramatically cooled external hopes.
Rutten is confident his team will bounce back strongly this week.
"It was a pretty disappointing performance from us, in particular through that middle part of the ground," Rutten said.
"We know they're a lot better than that. We're looking forward to a response.
"In a lot of respects, this game can't come around quick enough.
"We don't want to live in last week. We dealt with it Monday, we were really clear to put a plan in place to make sure that we're less chance of doing that again.
"I'm really confident in the guys. They will be jumping out of their skin come Saturday afternoon."
Essendon ruckman Sam Draper escaped with a $2,000 fine for his roundhouse gut punch on Esava Ratugolea, and Rutten doesn't want to see a repeat.
"He's putting himself at risk of being unavailable," Rutten said.
"We want to make sure we're channelling all our aggression at the ball and playing the ball as hard as we can."