Essendon are taking a risk versus reward approach with Conor McKenna, who is in the mix to make his AFL return against Collingwood on Friday night.
The Irishman is free to face the Magpies after a one-match ban for breaching AFL coronavirus protocols – which he served by missing Saturday’s loss to Carlton while in quarantine after his positive COVID-19 test.
McKenna trained by himself earlier in the week and was poised to join Essendon’s full group on Wednesday, with the Bombers weighing up the injury risk of a senior recall.
“The big thing for us to weigh up is physically how is he? He feels great, he feels fresh; he’s got no bruises, that’s for sure,” Essendon coach John Worsfold told reporters.
“But (there’s) the risk versus the reward of playing him after the period of time he’s just had and what he’s been able to do and what he can do in the next few days versus just getting him a hit-out.
“So we’re weighing that up at the moment.
“We’ll have a look at how he trains today but is there is definitely risk or reward there we have to weigh up.”
McKenna has been in good spirits despite the scrutiny he faced after he tested positive for coronavirus on June 20, which added to an already difficult year.
The 24-year-old, who has spoken about his homesickness, spent the AFL season’s suspension in Ireland and then had to quarantine upon his return to Melbourne.
But Worsfold said he wouldn’t “guess” whether McKenna’s year would affect his thinking on his AFL future.
“Our job is to support Conor in what he’s here for which is … he loves playing AFL footy, he wants to be out there and showing what he can do – so we’re helping him get back to do that,” Worsfold said.
“He’s had a couple of false starts this year, hopefully we can get him going as soon as possible and he can have a great, fun year.”
The Bombers have contemplated playing McKenna forward but if he plays, the speedster is likely to resume his typical role off half-back.
Essendon will be without Zach Merrett (suspension) against Collingwood, which could see Darcy Parish play more midfield minutes, with Dylan Clarke also in the mix.
Former Blues big man Andrew Phillips could be considered to take on All-Australian ruckman Brodie Grundy.