Jake Stringer likely to sit out AFLX for Essendon as he builds fitness base
Essendon fans will probably have to wait a bit longer to see Jake Stringer take on another AFL club in the red and black, with the recruit likely to sit out the Bombers’ AFLX matches in a bid to build his fitness for the season proper.
That’s despite Dons teammate David Zaharakis issuing a glowing endorsement of the former Western Bulldogs forward on Monday, suggesting that Stringer was “dominating” stoppage work and could fill the void left by retired skipper Jobe Watson.
Zaharakis said on RSN radio that the 2015 All-Australian had what it took to make a huge difference at Essendon this year.
“There’s very few players in the AFL who can explode from a pack by breaking a tackle or fending off like Dusty Martin or Patrick Dangerfield, and Jake has got that quality,” Zaharakis said.
"He’s a real match-changer and it’s great to have the type of player who can potentially replace Jobe Watson, who has been such a stoppage bull in there for us.
“He’s been winning stoppages on a consistent basis at training and almost every stoppage Jake will come out with the ball and we haven’t really had anyone dominating training like that.”
But it’s understood Essendon are likely to opt for Stringer to continue working on his fitness for the campaign ahead rather than play in the new modified seven-a-side (plus three on the bench) version of the game, which makes its big-time debut next week. He had an injury scare last week, hurting his foot after being trod on at training, but it was not serious.
Stringer, along with Devon Smith and Adam Saad, joined the Bombers in a busy trade period last year.
The Dons feature in the second AFLX event, next Friday night at Etihad Stadium. They are in a pool against Hawthorn and St Kilda, with the winner of that pool to take on the winner of a pool involving Carlton, North Melbourne and Melbourne in the night’s grand final.
Zaharakis will captain Essendon in the event in the absence of several experienced Dons, while Hayden Skipworth will coach the club. The Hawks announced on Monday that premiership player Max Bailey will coach them on the night, while it’s understood the Saints will be coached by Ben McGlynn.