Essendon has lost patience with one star midfielder while an ankle issue still lingers for another as they to kickstart their season.
Star Essendon on-baller Darcy Parish will be given until the last minute to prove his fitness for Saturday’s crunch clash with the Western Bulldogs after positive news on his injured ankle.
But Essendon coach Ben Rutten has ran out of patience with underperforming midfielder Dylan Shiel and dropped him along with defender Brendon Zerk-Thatcher for the must-win game.
Rutten revealed the club feared Parish may have suffered the same injury that sidelined teammate Zach Merrett for three games after hurting himself in the Anzac Day loss to Collingwood.
But the positive scan results, with Parish also out of a moon boot and running on Friday, leaves the door open for the 1-5 Bombers to include the ball magnet against the Bulldogs.
“He’s still a big ginger but every day he’s getting better,” Rutten said on Friday, putting defender Jayden Laverde in the same boat after he suffered a knock against the Magpies.
Parish blasted out of the blocks on Anzac Day, racking up 30 first-half disposals, and while some questioned the All-Australian’s impact, Rutten said there was no question what he brought to his team having steeled himself to contribute after the Bombers’ second -half fade out the previous week against Fremantle.
“I was really pleased with his whole week last week. The first center clearance he copped a big bump, won the clearance, it was a really good sign, he had a really challenging week,” Rutten said.
“The way he took ownership, he was really honest in his reflection and built a plan to be better.
“I thought Darcy had a really strong game. He had great impact around the ball, some of his use in tight and his handball was great.
“I don’t get too carried away with the numbers game, it’s important he does what he needs to for the team and the midfield group.”
Rutten recalled 202cm Zach Reid, taken at pick 10 by the Bombers in the 2020 draft, for his second senior game after impressing in the VFL in recent weeks having battled glandular fever and then foot injuries since his debut last season.
“The last couple of weeks have been really about him getting back and playing some good footy … seeing some of his movements and some of his contest work and intercept marking,” Rutten said.
“He’s doing a lot right, and he’s going to be well and truly in for selection this week.”
But 2018 best and fairest winner Devon Smith remains out of the senior side and “working on aspects of his game” to get back in having fallen out of form and favor amid Essendon’s struggles in 2022.
“He is (too good to be out of the side). Devon at his best, he is absolutely in our team,” Rutten said.
“I’ve been talking with Dev for a few weeks, having some really good conversations about how we can get him back to his best. He’s working on a couple of aspects of his game that will help him improve his ability to do what we need him to do.”
An AFL return for livewire forward Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti has also been delayed even further after he was put into health and safety protocols and he won’t play in the VFL this week.
McDonald-Tipungwuti hasn’t played AFL this season after battling some off-field issues and Rutten said he wouldn’t return to the senior side until they felt he would be at his absolute best.
“Unfortunately, he’s going to be away for a week or so. We’ll need to work our way back from that,” he said.
“We want to build some momentum with him. We want to set him up to be successful when he returns.”