Essendon will meet fierce rival Carlton on Sunday night without Paddy Ryder after the ruckman conceded on Wednesday that he would not recover from an ankle injury in time to battle the Blues.
Ryder was on crutches last weekend after badly rolling the ankle in the narrow loss to Hawthorn, and arrived at the launch of the 10th anniversary of The Long Walk still limping and moving gingerly. He remains hopeful of recovering in time for the round four trip to Perth to meet Fremantle.
"Not even walking, still struggling to walk and still get a fair bit of pain," Ryder said of his progress since last Friday night. "There's a bit of swelling still in it, we've got to try and clear all that up, work hard with the physios to get it moving, and we'll go from there.
Pride: Michael Long (left) and Paddy Ryder remember The Long Walk, which drew attention to race relations. Photo: Joe Armao
"I had scans and that's cleared any major damage, but I obviously rolled over pretty badly on it, it's still pretty sore. Once I get up and running everything should be fine from there."
The Bombers could yet promote Fraser Thurlow from the rookie list in place of Tom Bellchambers, who had ankle surgery in February, which Ryder said was a decision for the coaching staff to make based on the 21-year-old's development.
"If there's a ruckman there I'm not against playing a ruckman in that position."
Paddy Ryder. Photo: Pat Scala
He admitted Jake Carlisle and Joe Daniher would "probably have to shoulder a bit of the ruck this week", but said the Bombers were blessed with a number of versatile big men who could cover his loss.
Essendon trailed Carlton by 17 points at three-quarter time in their last meeting, in round 22 last year, but kicked the last four goals of the game to overrun the Blues in what proved to be an emotional last win with James Hird as coach. Days later the Bombers were relegated to ninth on the ladder as punishment for the peptides scandal, with the Blues taking their spot in the finals.
Ryder said his teammates were expecting another huge clash.
"Always when you come up against them it's for bragging rights, always a massive game. I remember last year just getting them on the line, so the boys will remember that game and know that the Carlton boys are going to come at us. Our boys have got to be on our game this week."
Former champion Michael Long said the Bombers' effort in reeling in Hawthorn last Friday night before being pipped at the death showed how far the team had come.
"It's a good measure against Hawthorn, a real good guage of where we're at and where we're going."