ESSENDON has suffered a blow on the eve of the season with two of their brightest talents set to be sidelined for differing reasons.
Promising big man Aaron Francis has taken leave from the club as he battles personal issues, while Jayden Laverde faces up to 10 weeks out with a serious hamstring injury.
Francis, the no.6 draft pick from 2015, has showed enormous promise as a tall at either end of the field but has struggled to cement a place in the senior line-up.
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He requested a trade back to his native South Australia at the end of last season but a deal could not be struck.
The 20-year-old returned for pre-season in impressive shape but was a notable absentee at the club’s intra-club match at Tullamarine on Saturday.
Teammate Orazio Fantasia revealed on Tuesday that Francis needed a break from the rigours of AFL football.
Aaron Francis sings the song after a win last year. Pic: Getty Images
“He told the boys last week that he’s just going to take a little bit of personal time away from the footy club,” Fantasia told FIVEaa.
“Obviously the footy club and the boys understand that.
“Aaron is going to be a crucial part of this team, so to get him right off the field is number one (priority).”
“You know how hard the game can be even if you’re in a good headspace.
“So he’s just taking a little bit of time away from the footy club at the moment.”
Coach John Worsfold praised Francis’ attitude upon his resumption at pre-season training.
Last season he was also urged to lift his fitness levels as he tried to forge a permanent place in Worsfold’s team.
Aaron Francis and Jayden Laverde at training. Picture: Jason Edwards
Francis’ off-field woes are compounded by news Laverde has been struck down with a serious injury for a second successive preseason, with a hamstring tendon strain to rule him out for up to 10 weeks.
The 21-year-old was one of the Bombers’ more impressive performers in their first intra-club match at Tullamarine last Saturday, but felt tight during stages of the game.
Essendon high performance manager Justin Crow confirmed that scans have shown a significant strain, leaving the luckless Laverde sidelined once more for the start of the season.
“Jayden was in the game and feeling tight in his hamstring. We got that scanned, and had some really bad news there,” Crow told the club’s website.
Jayden Laverde’s 2018 campaign has been dented. Picture: Nicole Garmston
“He’s got a strain in that tendon which is an eight-to-10 week rehabilitation, so bad news for Jayden but he’ll be back doing his rehab and working towards the season as soon as he can.”
Laverde, who has played only 23 games in three completed seasons at the club, was pick 20 in the 2014 national draft, and the Bombers have high hopes for him, potentially moving into the midfield at some stage.
He suffered an ankle injury during last year’s JLT Community series, which saw him out of action for four months before he worked his way back into the senior team for five games late in the season.
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A broken collarbone caused him to spend time on the sidelines in 2016.
But the news was much better for All-Australian defender Michael Hurley, who has been cleared of a broken wrist after coming off during the second term of the intra-club.
Hurley had surgery on the same wrist during the off-season, but scans were positive and he will now be aiming to return for the start of the JLT Community series.