Hamstrung Oliver could miss a month, Dons eye return for injured crew

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Key points

  • Essendon improved to a 5-5 win-loss record with a last-minute victory over Richmond.
  • The Bombers discuss winning more often since Brad Scott arrived as coach, Josh Mahoney says. 
  • Important defender Jayden Laverde and other key Bombers are set to return in the coming weeks.

Melbourne could be without star midfielder Clayton Oliver for up to a month after scans confirmed he suffered a hamstring injury in the Demons’ loss to Port Adelaide on Friday night.

Oliver is expected to be assessed at the club on Monday to determine the extent of the injury, but sources close to the 25-year-old said he may be unavailable for a month.

The Brownlow Medal fancy clutched at his left hamstring during the game but kept playing as the Demons went down by four points.

Clayton Oliver could miss a month with a hamstring injuryCredit: Getty Images

It is a blow for the team as they fight to earn a spot in the top four with matches against Fremantle, Carlton and Collingwood in the next three weeks.

They may also be without Lachie Hunter who was suspended for a week after he went low and hard at a loose ball and collected Connor Rozee. The Demons may still choose to appeal the MRO’s decision.

Oliver is also one of the Brownlow Medal favourites, with the premiership Demon starting the season in brilliant form, his partnership with Christian Petracca helping the Demons to fourth spot after 10 rounds.

They have the best percentage in the competition as they look to set up another premiership tilt.

‘The ones you dream about in the backyard’: Bomber relives last-gasp goal

Meantime, Essendon’s head of football Josh Mahoney has hailed the winning culture new coach Brad Scott is fostering after the undermanned Bombers stole victory from Richmond.

Speaking to The Age the day after Essendon’s one-point victory, Mahoney described the result as “a relief” following a brutal five weeks, when they faced Melbourne, Collingwood, Geelong, Port Adelaide and Brisbane Lions.

Match-winner: Sam Durham celebrates.Credit: AFL Photos

They upset the Demons, but gave up a 28-point lead a week later on Anzac Day to start a four-match losing slide that ended when Jake Stringer and Sam Durham combined for a last-minute goal in the Dreamtime clash.

Durham, a former Richmond VFL player picked up in the 2021 mid-season draft, reflected on his “unbelievable” moment. “They’re the ones you dream about in the backyard,” he told the Sunday Footy Show of his set shot from the top of the goal square with seconds left on the clock.

“I knew … I needed to take my full 30 [seconds]. I just wanted it out of my hands, all I was thinking about was my debut against North Melbourne when I missed one in the square.”

The thrilling victory was achieved without All-Australians Darcy Parish and Dylan Shiel – a late withdrawal – reigning club champion Peter Wright, recruit Will Setterfield, Jayden Laverde, Jake Kelly, James Stewart, Matt Guelfi and top-10 pick Nik Cox.

“I think we talk about winning a lot more [since Scott took over],” Mahoney said.

“You can talk about still being a young side and developing our playing list, but players and everyone at the club wants to win – you can do both at the same time, and that’s what we’re trying to create at Essendon.

Darcy Parish is one of several star Bombers who are sidelined.Credit: Getty Images

“We’re going into every game trying to win, and that gives players confidence and the club confidence.”

Mahoney crossed to the Bombers in late 2020 after holding the same role at Melbourne, and believes there is a similar “desperation” for success, given the Demons did not end their 57-year flag drought until the following season.

“There was a weight of expectation on the players and the football department [at Melbourne], and everyone feels the pressure of that,” he said.

“There’s that feeling at Essendon as well, but what you need to understand is you can’t click your fingers and all of a sudden, it turns around. It’s a tough, uncompromising competition.

“We need to make sure every part of our football department is taking us closer to a premiership, and that’s what we’re basing all our decisions on. It’s not linear – there will be ups and downs through that – but we want to take our fans on that journey.”

Mahoney believes Scott’s arrival as an experienced coach with a proven track record of success helped win over the playing group.

“Going back to the reason we appointed Brad in the first place – he spoke about how he’s a development coach, and loves seeing improvement in players,” he said. “He’s also big on taking responsibility for what happens on the field. Players don’t go out to make mistakes, so if they’re not doing what we want them to do, [Scott’s philosophy is] the coaches need to get to work, and change the way they’re teaching and the language they’re using. That’s refreshing for players to see, knowing they’re coming into the Hangar each day and not only Brad but the whole coaching group is doing everything possible to make them better.”

But Mahoney also reserved praise for the leadership of Zach Merrett, Andy McGrath and ex-captain Dyson Heppell, all of whom he said had all been critical this year.

That includes Merrett’s selflessness in accepting whatever role he is asked to perform, the responsibility McGrath is taking on down back every week, and Heppell’s experience in clutch moments, including in the dying stages on Saturday night.

“Those guys are extremely important,” Mahoney said. “They have an important connection with the coaching group, and their leadership this year has been really strong.”

Bombers defender Jayden Laverde could return from injury next week.Credit: AFL Photos

Mahoney said the tough stretch of matches they have emerged from enabled them to gather information on their system and how players responded in certain situations.

Even better, he said, was that there was light at the end of the tunnel for their injured crop.

“Every week from now, we’ll start to get more players back,” Mahoney said.

“Guelfi played in the VFL at the weekend, next week Nik Cox will most likely play in the VFL as well, Jayden Laverde is a chance to play next week, and Peter Wright won’t be long after that – he will be before the bye, or just after.

“Jake Kelly is out with concussion, and [No.5 draft pick Elijah] Tsatas will be after the bye, with ‘Reidy’ [Zach Reid], so in the next month we will get a fair few players back.

“Darcy Parish will be in that period, too, so hopefully without any more injuries happening, we’re looking forward to getting a lot of guys back for the second half of the year.”

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