Key tall adds to Bombers injury concerns

Essendon's AFL season preparations have taken a hit with Tom Bellchambers undergoing knee surgery and Conor McKenna returning to Ireland due to homesickness.

TOM BELLCHAMBERS at MCG in Melbourne, Australia.
TOM BELLCHAMBERS at MCG in Melbourne, Australia. Picture: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Essendon's hopes of getting their AFL premiership campaign off to a flying start have received a fresh blow, with Tom Bellchambers the latest key player to suffer a pre-season setback.

The ruckman had an arthroscopic clean out performed on his left knee last week and will be on a modified program for at least the next fortnight.

The 30-year-old joins key Bombers such as captain Dyson Heppell (foot), Orazio Fantasia (hip), Joe Daniher (groin), Michael Hurley (shoulder), Cale Hooker (hip) and David Zaharakis (ankle) who have been slowed by injury this pre-season.

"Yes, a few of our bigger names have had interrupted pre-seasons, but I think there are a lot of other guys that can step up and fill the void," Essendon midfielder Andrew McGrath told reporters on Tuesday.

"I wouldn't say it's a concern ... every team has their injury problems.

"We've had a few well-documented ones but I think every team's going through a similar thing.

"I think all our boys are coming sort of good at the right time which is nice. A lot more of them are out on the track and they're all progressing really well."

In a further blow, defender Conor McKenna has returned to his homeland of Ireland due to homesickness and family-related reasons.

General manager of football Dan Richardson said the 23-year-old, who has played 73 games for the club since his debut in 2015, had the club's full support to return to his native country.

"We have been in lengthy discussions with Conor over recent weeks and we are completely supportive of him returning home to be with his family at this time," Richardson said.

"We remain in constant communication with both Conor and his family and we will continue to provide our support during this period."

The Bombers have lost two elimination finals in the past three seasons, having had their ambitions to finish higher up the ladder cruelled by poor starts.

Last year John Worsfold's men were belted by GWS in the season-opener and scratched their way to 3-5 before finishing stronger to make an elimination final where they were dispatched by West Coast.

They missed the finals in 2018 after starting 2-6 and were 3-4 in 2017 when they eventually suffered a 65-point elimination final loss to Sydney.

"We're aware of where we're at as a footy club," McGrath said.

"Every team wants to play finals and aims to win finals eventually, but we know we're not there yet and we're still building towards that.

"Hopefully that will come in the near future."

Essendon kick off their 2020 campaign with an afternoon clash against Fremantle at Marvel Stadium on Saturday, March 21.


AAP