Bombers won’t rush Stringer’s recovery for round one: McGrath

Essendon could be without lynch pin Jake Stringer for their round one clash against Hawthorn, with vice captain Andy McGrath saying the side doesn’t want to rush the key forward’s recovery.

Stringer has been absent from the Bombers’ two pre-season matches, including their 35-point loss to St Kilda on Friday, after suffering a hamstring issue in training last month, when the club said it was hopeful of him being in contention for round one.

Jake Stringer kicks for goal in the 2022 season.Credit:Getty Images

McGrath said Stringer, who has had a modified training schedule, was running again after showing some improvement in the past week, but the timing of his return was uncertain. The injury follows a series of injury troubles for the key goalkicker in the past year.

“It’s a play by ear scenario with Jake, his health is first priority,” McGrath said.

“He’s had a couple of niggles over the pre-season. We want him healthy at the right time of year, and rushing him back is probably not what we’re looking to do.”

McGrath said a conservative approach was being taken with midfielder Jye Caldwell – who appeared to sprain to his left ankle during the Saints match – and Dyson Heppell, who missed the match due to a foot injury sustained while playing the Gold Coast a week earlier.

“They are both walking around in moon boots at the moment just to conserve inflammation and reduce any time out of the game,” he said.

Several new players are possible Essendon debutants as the season proper starts. Will Setterfield, Sam Weideman and Alwyn Davey (Jnr) – who McGrath has spent time playing on during training – have all proven to be exciting prospects, he says.

“[Davey] just brings a life to our football club. He’s got extreme pace, he pressures the ball really well and I think he’s just going to keep getting better every time he plays,” McGrath said.

However, McGrath is clear about the work cut out for the Bombers after Friday’s defeat. He said windy conditions made it difficult for them to execute their game plan, but St Kilda “chipped through … a little bit too easily” and was stronger in the midfield.

“There’s areas that we can improve in every line,” McGrath said. “When [the midfield] are on – I’ve seen them do it all pre-season – they work really well together and can put teams to the sword. We’ll go to work again, our midfield group, forward line and backline to be the best group we can.”

Brad Scott gets busy as coach.Credit:AFL Photos / Getty Images

Coach Brad Scott told fans at the club’s family day on Saturday he was impressed with players’ eagerness to improve.

“I have been really impressed with the work ethic, the work rate, and just how hungry this group is to achieve some success,” he said.

“They all know success doesn’t just happen in the blink of an eye.”

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