If there were a source of frustration for an AFL player, it would have to be pre-season surgery, such as that recently undergone by Essendon Bombers ruck Tom Bellchambers.
The knee surgery seems of the minor sort, for two reasons.
One, it is not our knee and two, reports suggest that Bellchambers could be capable of at least light running in a couple weeks’ time.
Bellchambers will likely miss a hitout agasint Melbourne February 21. He will in most probability miss out on marsh Community Series matches agasint West Coast Eagles on February 27 and Geelong Cats on March 9, although he should be back in training by that time.
There is no true necessity to rush Bellchambers back.
Provided they can keep him on the ground, Essendon could use Andrew Phillips for the season opener against Fremantle on March 21.
Phillips does pose questions.
In three seasons with GWS and four with Carlton, he has played just 41 games. He has never played more than 16 games in a season and the last three seasons have found him making just 11 appearances.
Bellchambers has had struggles of his own to stay on the ground, but he has made 50 appearances in the last three seasons, so from the tables at least, he would seem the more reliable in the comparison between him and Phillips.
The Bombers have Sam Draper, but he ruptured his ACL in May of 2019. Draper was a No. 1 pick in the 2016 rookie draft, but he has yet to debut. Essendon have enough faith in Draper’s potential that he was given a four-year extension. It is expected that he will be fit and firing by the time the Toyota 2020 AFL Premiership begins, but he is not the only egg in the Essendon basket.
Rightly so. Until he can demonstrate the ability to stay on the ground and confidence is his legs, he is an untested commodity at best.
The Bombers are almost holding open auditions to find a ruck that can get them through until someone can demonstrate some reliability, at least, coupled with strong play, hopefully.