Dons cautious approach with Hurley

Essendon will enter its match against Greater Western Sydney with an unchanged line-up after key defender Michael Hurley was again ruled out due to injury.

Hurley had been expected to return for the clash on Saturday after being sidelined for weeks with a lower back injury, but assistant coach Simon Goodwin said he hadn’t trained enough to be placed in the squad.

“We want to make sure his back’s 100 per cent and back doing a full training load before he re-joins the team,” Goodwin said.

The team entered its final training session without coach Mark Thompson, who stayed away due to a cold, but Goodwin said he’ll be flying up to Sydney to coach the team for their round 12 game.

“He’s just got a little cold but we’re keeping him away from the team so we don’t want it to spread any further. Everyone’s ready to go,” he said.

With Hurley missing again, Jake Carlisle will get another opportunity to prove himself in defence following a strong performance against Richmond in round 11.

“Jake was fantastic last week and we think he’ll play well anywhere. He showed last week he’s a quality backman,” Goodwin said.

The unchanged line-up showed signs that consistency is improving at the club after some early-season stumbles.

“It’s probably the first time that’s happened all year. We’ve got a fairly experienced side going in. Our players are healthy, they’re fit and we feel we’re going to continue to improve,” Goodwin said.

Great Western Sydney – languishing 17th on the ladder – will be chasing its elusive first victory over Essendon on Saturday.

The Giants have been in poor form for most of the season but have started to show signs of improvement after their seven-point loss to Hawthorn in round 11.

Despite their opposition being out of form, Goodwin said the Giants had a solid record in contested ball and tackling and that would make them formidable competition.

“If that’s not a key enough indicator to show that you have to be right up for the challenge, then I don’t know what is.”

In their past five match-ups, the Giants have beaten the Bombers in both areas.

While a win for the Giants would increase confidence, a win for the Bombers is more pressing – they sit just two positions outside the top eight.

Essendon, coming off their 50-point win against Richmond last week, will be seeking to keep momentum going and use another win to set the tone for the second half of the season. Goodwin said the club wasn’t thinking about finals yet, just to “continue to improve as the year goes on”.

The Giants have made two changes to their side, including an AFL debut for young ruckman Rory Lobb.

This story Dons cautious approach with Hurley first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.