Conor McKenna will travel with the Essendon squad to the AFL’s Gold Coast hub next week after returning to football in a reserves scratch match.
The Irish defender played in a 16-a-side hit-out with Collingwood at the MCG on Friday evening, just a few days after being released from quarantine after his COVID-19 scare.
McKenna returned negative coronavirus tests but was overlooked for the Bombers’ AFL win over Collingwood on Friday night as selectors erred on the side of caution because of the speedster’s disrupted preparation.
But McKenna, who has battled homesickness and spent time in Ireland during the coronavirus pandemic, played well in the scratch match to put his hand up for a senior recall for the first time this year.
“He looked sharp and used the ball really well,” Bombers coach John Worsfold said.
“Hopefully he’s pulled up well, but he looked quick and powerful and it was a perfect preparation for him going forward.”
Teammate James Stewart will also travel to the Gold Coast after completing his quarantine stint, having been ruled a “close contact” of McKenna’s when the 24-year-old first tested positive to COVID-19.
Essendon moved to a 3-1 record with their win over the Magpies and are scheduled to take on North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs at Metricon Stadium in the first two weeks of their hub stay.
Worsfold said the Bombers will work out finer details on their travelling party over the weekend and was non-committal when asked if Joe Daniher will be part of the group as the key forward gradually improves his fitness.
“As a club we’ll work through what’s going to be best for the team and best for the whole squad in terms of their preparation for the next period of time,” Worsfold said.
Worsfold said he is unsure if any players will choose not to go into the hub set-up for family or personal reasons.