Heppell to return for Essendon but Hurley needs surgery

Essendon will have captain Dyson Heppell back this week but will lose star Michael Hurley to shoulder surgery.

Heppell has battled a foot injury and missed the past two games but it's understood he will be available for selection this week.

In the frame: Dyson Heppell will return for the Bombers in their round 18 clash against the Crows. Credit:AAP

Hurley will be out for an indefinite period at this point, although the Bombers have yet to declare his season over.

The defender was forced out of Saturday's win over North Melbourne with an AC joint injury and didn't return.

Scans on Sunday revealed the damage was serious enough to warrant surgery, and his time out of the game won't be known until after his operation.

"Unfortunately Michael will undergo surgery in the coming days to repair the damage to the AC joint in his shoulder," Essendon general manager of football Dan Richardson said.

Sidelined: Injured defender Michael Hurley with Bombers coach John Worsfold.Credit:AAP

"Once the surgery is complete, we will be in a better position to clarify the length of time he will be sidelined.

"While it's a disappointing outcome, we remain hopeful Michael could return to play before season's end."

Ruckman Zac Clarke copped some criticism for his play the previous week but stood tall against decorated North ruckman Todd Goldstein on Saturday.

Clarke had 35 hit outs compared to Goldstein's 32 and Bombers midfielder Zach Merrett praised his ruckman on Sunday.

"Zac was someone who was really important on Saturday, he was putting the ball on my chest all day," Merrett told Channel Nine's AFL Sunday Footy Show.

"He copped some criticism last week and performed really well against Goldy which was a huge effort."

Merrett, who had 34 disposals, also spoke up for teammate Orazio Fantasia who is yet to find his top form since returning from injury with Merrett stating he offered many things that didn't show up on the stats sheet.

"We are still winning which is a massive bonus and Orazio is one of the most selfless players at our club, so I don't think that [his form] will worry him too much," Merrett said.

"We want to get him up and going, having him around the ball more will hopefully mean he gets more footy but he also has that ability to lead in our forward setup, he really helps the likes of Jake Stringer and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti."

The win sees Essendon finish the round with a share of eighth spot heading into this Friday's clash with the Adelaide Crows at Adelaide Oval followed by a visit to the Gold Coast to take on the Suns the following Sunday.

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