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Essendon confident Michael Hurley, Orazio Fantasia, Cale Hooker will play but doubt remains
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Essendon are confident that star trio Michael Hurley, Orazio Fantasia and Cale Hooker will be fit for their elimination final against Sydney on Saturday, however they’re still not willing to declare any of them fit to play.

Hurley (calf), Hooker (leg) and Fantasia (hamstring) will all have to get through Wednesday’s main training session unscathed to be considered for selection, as well as satisfy a series of “benchmarks” throughout the week in regards to their fitness.

The trio satisfied those benchmarks throughout the bye week and will have their training loads increased in the lead-up to the Bombers’ first final since 2014.

Hurley is understood to be the most likely to play, with more doubt held toward the fitness of Hooker and Fantasia. However Bombers’ general manager of football Rob Kerr told SEN on Monday that Fantasia, who tore his hamstring in round 20, is “a good chance” to play.

“It was acknowledged that it was going to be touch and go but the way he [Fantasia] has approached his rehab and the way he has responded, he lifted his running speeds on Friday and got through that OK without soreness which was a pretty good sign,” he said.

“Percentage wise he is getting up around that 80 per cent mark. The doctors are keen to hold him back until the session later in the week. He has moved forward in terms of pace without incident which is obviously pretty important.”

Hooker was a late withdrawal from Essendon’s side that beat Fremantle in round 23 while Hurley hasn’t played since the Bombers’ round 21 loss to Adelaide.

Fantasia was the only one who trained on Friday with the Bombers. He completed light running work away from the main group. Hurley told the Bombers’ website last week that he would be ready to play the Swans.

 

Essendon will need all of their stars firing to be a good chance of beating the Swans, who finished the season in formidable form after losing the first six games of 2017.

Sydney are the best defensive side in the competition but Essendon will be confident of an upset win given how they played at the SCG in round 14.

 

The Bombers lost that game to a last gasp flurry of goals from Sydney but performed well across most of the match, despite the Swans’ inaccurate goal kicking.

Essendon will need Hurley fit and firing for the final given Lance Franklin averages the most scores against the Bombers compared to any other opposition (4.6).

 

In round 14, Franklin kicked 0.6, a return that could have cost Sydney the game had they not staged their late comeback.

The Bombers are expecting to have around 10,000 Essendon fans in the SCG for the Saturday afternoon game.

At this stage there will be eight buses leaving Windy Hill on Friday night to get to Sydney, however the club expects that to grow as more members purchase tickets throughout the week.

Essendon last won a final in 2004 when they beat Melbourne at the MCG in an elimination final.

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