The news of the positive test for Conor McKenna reverberated throughout the AFL community on Saturday.
It particularly scared Essendon supporters, already wary of the impacts of widespread suspensions as a result of the disastrous supplements scandal in 2012.
Thankfully, at this stage it appears Conor is as healthy as can be expected, and he has a low viral load. However, Essendon are facing the prospect of being without seven other players listed here:
1. Adam Saad.
2. Michael Hurley.
3. Cale Hooker.
4. Matt Guelfi.
5. Mason Redman.
6. Jordan Ridley.
This article is about how the Bombers should respond, not about the poor decisions and structuring of the training groups for the Bombers in this pandemic world.
So who do the Bombers bring in to replace these players? Each of them are starters in the Essendon line up for Round 3 (before it was cancelled).
Thankfully, if there’s one part of the ground where the Bombers have depth, it’s the back line. They’re going up against a tall forward line with Carlton in Round 4.
As a result they can potentially afford to be slightly taller in the back line with Paddy Ambrose, Aaron Francis, and Braden Zerk Thatcher each coming in for the tall posts.
On the flanks they can afford to be a little creative, the highly rated Brayden Ham and the injury prone Martin Gleeson, who’s speed and composure out of the backline has been important to the Bombers.
That leaves one more spot for the bombers, they can move David Zaharakis back from his forward posting as they’ve been want to do in the past, or even move Andy McGrath back into the back line.
But I favour someone who’s going to bring the pressure, the Bombers should move Anthony McDonald Tippungwuti back into the back line like he was in 2016, this will bring a harder edge to their back line, and spread out the burden positionally speaking.
Finally, what do Essendon do if (god forbid) any of these aforementioned players go down with an injury? They’ll have to swing the magnets around in such a way as to lessen the burden.
They still have Jayden Laverde (who was drafted as a utility), Cian McBride, Ross McQuillan, Ned Cahill and more waiting in the wings, ready to come in at the drop of the hat.
Yes, the unfortunate circumstances surrounding McKenna has increased the likelihood they’ll lose games this year, but player safety is paramount in these uncertain times, I for one believe the Bombers can find creative work around a for the foreseeable future.