Four 2012 Bombers named in pre-season squad



Four young Essendon players who were on their 2012 list are in the squad for Saturday’s AFL pre-season match against St Kilda in Morwell.

It is a surprising change by the club ahead of the AFL anti-doping tribunal verdicts on 34 current and past Bombers players.

Nick O’Brien, Jackson Merrett, Elliott Kavanagh and Lauchlan Dalgleish are in the squad of 26, as are all the 13 top-up players brought in because of the impending tribunal judgments.

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Last month, the AFL commission gave Essendon permission to use top-up players through the NAB Challenge as the club awaits the verdicts.

All 25 players currently at the club who were there in 2012 would sit out the pre-season games until the verdicts were known.

That is to protect the anonymity of the charged players, understood to number 17 or 18.

Those players whose cases are before the tribunal are serving provisional suspensions and by not playing in the NAB Challenge, they preserve potential back-dated suspensions if found guilty.

The tribunal cases came from a joint ASADA-AFL investigation into the 2012 Essendon supplements scandal.

Essendon football operations manager Rob Kerr said the quartet had approached the club about playing in the NAB Challenge.

“The coaches and the leadership group agreed that it was appropriate for the four players to be available for selection throughout the NAB Challenge and the AFLPA was also comfortable with this decision,” Kerr said in a club statement.

“As a club we had to weigh up the interests of all of our players and the leadership group made it clear they didn’t want to deny these four players the opportunity to play senior football at this stage in their careers.

“The 2012 listed players who are provisionally suspended understand the reasons for their selection and feel their anonymity remains protected.”

Apart from the four cleared to play in Morwell, midfielder David Zaharakis apparently is also not facing charges because he did not take part in the injection program.

O’Brien, Merrett and Kavanagh were on the senior list in 2012 and Dalgleish was a rookie-listed player.

Of the quartet, Dalgleish was the only one not to play any senior football in 2012.

Essendon’s squad for the Saturday twilight game features all 13 top-up players approved by the AFL.

They are either former AFL players or from Essendon’s VFL team.

“It’s great, they’ve been terrific in their attitude and the way they’ve been accepted by the rest of the football club and the rest of the boys,” coach James Hird said of the top-up players.

“The greatest worry we’ve had is whether they will be accepted and how they’ll adapt to the game plan.

“But all the indications, all the signs, would say they’ve picked things up pretty quickly.”

The top ups are:
Mitch Brown (previously Geelong), Mitch Clisby (previously Melbourne), Josh Freezer (Essendon VFL), Aaron Heppell (Essendon VFL), Clinton Jones (previously St Kilda), Anthony McDonald-Tipungwati (Essendon VFL), James Magner (previously Melbourne), Marcus Marigliani (Essendon VFL), Sam Michael (previously Brisbane), Jared Petrenko (previously Adelaide), James Polkinghorne (previously Brisbane), Jordan Schroder (previously Geelong) and Sam Tagliabue (Essendon VFL).


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