Essendon have not put a date on Joe Daniher’s AFL return with coach John Worsfold unable to confirm whether the injury-prone forward will feature this season.
Daniher was limited to just 11 games across 2018 and 2019 and hasn’t played since round nine last year due to groin issues.
Worsfold said Daniher, who unsuccessfully sought a trade to Sydney at the end of last season, wouldn’t feature in round two and was a “fair way off” reaching the training intensity required to push for AFL selection.
“I can’t answer that question (whether Daniher will play in 2020),” Worsfold told reporters on Tuesday.
“All I can say is that our aim is to help him get back ready to play, ready to resume his career – so that’s what we’re aiming for.
“He’s progressing well and we’re trying to get him up, ready to go.”
Worsfold emphasised Daniher’s injury rehabilitation wouldn’t be “linear” and his next step was reaching the point where he could join in main training for at least “a couple of weeks” before he could push for selection.
“We’re not too concerned about saying ‘get him back as quickly as possible’,” Worsfold said.
“We’re just following the protocol because … this is about long term for Joe, (to) help him absolutely get over this so his career progresses at the rate we want, rather than trying to get him back one or two weeks earlier.”
Daniher, 26, qualifies for free agency at season’s end but Worsfold said the Bombers weren’t in contract discussions, instead focusing on getting the forward back playing
Dyson Heppell is in doubt to feature in round two as he progresses in his return from a foot injury but has built up his running load, with the Bombers optimistic their captain will feature early.
“It’s going to be line ball I would guess but the good part is that we’re talking that way – that he’s prepping to play now, and it’s just a matter of whether it’s in a couple of weeks or whether it stretches out by an extra week or so,” Worsfold said.
Conor McKenna returns from Ireland later this week but will have to enter a 14-day quarantine period before he can rejoin training and Worsfold conceded it would be “tough” for the speedster to press his case for round two.