Essendon’s Patrick Ryder and Dustin Fletcher during a light training session yesterday.ESSENDON defender Dyson Heppell is confident the Bombers will still boast productive key forwards against Port Adelaide on Saturday despite the absence of a suspended Stewart Crameri and an injured Michael Hurley.
The Bombers were thumped by 71 points by St Kilda on Saturday night – their first heavy defeat of the season – and will look to atone against Port Adelaide at AAMI Stadium.
Had the Bombers won, they could have taken top spot. Instead, they have slipped to sixth on the ladder, and also have another injury concern with Hurley hurting his hamstring and set to miss up to a month.
Crameri is the club’s leading goalkicker with 27 while Hurley has supplied 19 and his strong leading has allowed the Bombers to regularly attack through the corridor.
Heppell, who is last year’s Rising Star of the Year and is enjoying another consistent season, said the Bombers would have options, with ruckmen Patrick Ryder and David Hille also strong threats inside attacking 50 metres.
”I guess we have the option of bringing Tom Bellchambers back in. That will leave us with three talls. Patty can be a very explosive as well. He could be a key for us up there,” Heppell said yesterday.
”We could even bring in Scotty Gumbleton as well, who is playing some good footy in the VFL. I reckon it would be awesome if we could see Scotty out there again.”
Gumbleton has been in solid form in the VFL since returning from knee and back injuries. He was taken off at three-quarter-time for precautionary reasons on Sunday, having had 10 disposals, and will be considered for a senior recall.
”He is a pretty strong character. He has kept very positive around the club,” Heppell said. ”He is moving freely in games and his body seems to be holding up all right at this stage. It’s great to see him back out there.”
However, Bellchambers’ hopes of a recall could be derailed after he was cited for tripping while playing for Bendigo against North Ballarat at Eureka Stadium.
The Bombers beat Port Adelaide by 25 points when the teams met in round two at Etihad Stadium but they have not prevailed at AAMI Stadium against the Power since 2000.
However, this season they have won all three interstate matches.
While they should again prevail, hopes of securing a coveted top-four spot will be tested against Geelong (Etihad), Hawthorn (Etihad), Adelaide (AAMI Stadium), North Melbourne (Etihad), Carlton (MCG), Richmond (MCG) and Collingwood (MCG).
”It’s a pretty vital game for us this week,” Heppell said. ”Our interstate record has been pretty good this year, which is pleasing. I guess coming off a pretty big loss we will be keen to make amends on that.
”It was pretty disappointing the way we actually got buried. They [Saints] definitely put the foot down and didn’t let us back in the game.”
Midfielder Brent Stanton is one of several players out of contract at Windy Hill. He said he was close to re-signing – possibly a three-year deal.