Dustin Fletcher won’t be leading the Bombers out against Richmond. Photo: Pat ScalaEssendon’s 393-game veteran Dustin Fletcher will miss the clash against Richmond, but Bombers coach Mark Thompson maintains that the 39-year-old’s regular absences will not force the club’s hand in ushering him into retirement at season’s end.
Fletcher was a conspicuous absentee from training on Thursday, and Thompson confirmed that groin soreness would keep the dual premiership player from taking on Richmond at the MCG on Friday night.
Nevertheless, Thompson was adamant that the call on whether Fletcher plays on into a 23rd AFL season in 2015 will be up to the defender.
“It’s up to Dustin, it’s not up to us,” Thompson said.
The interim coach further added that the club was unsure whether Fletcher would return next week to take on West Coast at Etihad Stadium.
Fletcher will be joined on the sidelines in this weekend by captain Jobe Watson and gun rebounder Michael Hibberd, with Thompson indicating that neither was quite ready to rejoin the senior side following injury layoffs.
Thompson suggested that Hibberd would be back from his hamstring complaint to face the Eagles next week, while Watson (hip tendon) was also not far away.
The coach said though that in-form tall Jake Carlisle would play despite his quad concerns on the proviso he got through the team’s training session. Fellow forward Joe Daniher is also in the mix to make an early return from a collarbone injury, while upgraded rookie Ariel Steinberg is again a strong chance to make his senior debut.
Bomber speedster Jason Winderlich announced on Wednesday that he would be retiring at season’s end, and Thompson paid tribute to the 29-year-old.
“It’s sad, you don’t often see it when someone’s playing good football – he hasn’t hit the 30 mark – and he’s had to retire. He’s had a lifetime, a career of struggle. He’s going out on a high, we want him to stay, it’s amicable, he’s a great Essendon player so we wish him all the best.”
Thompson hinted that he had not foreseen Winderlich’s decision, but conceded that persistent injuries had taken their toll on the utility, who has been restricted to just 123 games over the course of his 12-year career.
“I was surprised, I think he’s playing fantastic footy. I’m not with him when he tries to get out of bed in the morning.”
Thompson believed that if Winderlich had been afforded a more fortunate lot, “he could have been exceptional”.
“He just knows the game very well. Smart decision maker, had good speed, had good size, could win contests, his body just wasn’t strong enough.”
The Tigers have rekindled their finals aspirations with a five-game winning run, and Thompson outlined his perceived reasons behind their improvement.
“They’re playing a lot better than than they were at the start of the season that’s for sure. They’re moving the footy a lot quicker, playing better footy because they actually decided they were out of the finals but now they decided to get back in.”
He also believed that despite the Bombers being in the box seat to play just their third finals series in a decade, the club could not be comfortable with how the year had panned out.
“No, not at all. We’d like to be higher, we’d like to be in a better position, we’d like to have no injuries.”
“We shouldn’t get content at all really. The moment you do you slip pretty quickly in this game.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.