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The grim scenario facing Essendon if Joe Daniher asks for a trade

As a restricted free agent the Bombers could also match any offer a rival club made in an attempt to force a trade, or Daniher, who is said to be in good spirits despite slow progress on the injury front, could choose to extend his time with Essendon.

The Bombers refused to trade Daniher last season because they did not believe they could replace him in the short-term and his departure would have had too big of an effect on their chances in 2020.

When I look at what Joe is doing at the moment, it is not enough to say he’ll be ready for round two.

Bombers coach John Worsfold

The key forward, who has played just 11 games since winning the best and fairest in 2017, is yet to enter discussions with the club about next year, with players, clubs and managers all waiting for a clearer indication about what next year’s salary cap will look like and whether list sizes will be reduced.

The AFL has not allowed clubs to sign contracts during the coronavirus shutdown.

Apart from Daniher, Adelaide’s Brad Crouch, Giants Jeremy Cameron and Zac Williams, plus Collingwood’s Jordan De Goey and Darcy Moore are all in limbo as they are out of contract at the end of the season.

Cameron is one player who would shape as a ready made replacement for Daniher if he decided to move back to Victoria.

Worsfold said on Tuesday that Daniher was yet to return to full training and was unable to say if he would play at all in 2020, although that remains the goal.

“When I look at what Joe is doing at the moment, it is not enough to say he’ll be ready for round two,” Worsfold said.

“He’s obviously a fair way off what we would say is the intensity to be ready to play so we’ll just keep progressing him up and that will take care of itself.

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“The next step for him will be getting to the point where he can join in training with the group and then there’s usually a couple of weeks required where he is in full training with the group before we would say someone’s back ready to play.”

Daniher’s last game came against Fremantle in round nine last year.

When asked if Daniher would play in 2020, Worsfold said: “I can’t answer that question. All I can say is that is our aim, to help him get back ready to play.

“I don’t think we have had any idea of how it would progress so this issue is different to pretty much any other issue that our medical staff have seen so they are treating it as a unique situation.

“If we step him up to a certain level, and that level he is not coping with, we have to come back to the previous level and strengthen him more in that area and then we go again.

“It is not linear … [we’re] working really diligently around getting Joe’s body right where he can play AFL footy.”

On a new contract for Daniher, Worsfold said: “We’re not in those discussions at this stage. When we feel like the time is right we can recommence those discussions, but we’ve got a really strong focus on seeing Joe play footy as soon as we can.”

Worsfold said having captain Dyson Heppell and Conor McKenna available for round two was not certain.

Dyson Heppell may struggle to play in Essendon's round two match because of a foot problem.

Dyson Heppell may struggle to play in Essendon’s round two match because of a foot problem.Credit:Getty Images

McKenna is in two-week quarantine having just returned from Ireland, while Heppell had an infection in his foot after he had screws removed in February.

“Really it’s going to depend on how much he [Heppell] can do in the next three weeks and what we as a coaching group is best preparing him,” Worsfold said.

“It’s going to be tough for him [McKenna] to say he is ready for round two.”

In better news, Patrick Ambrose and Cale Hooker returned to full training this week.

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