Floundering Essendon utility Jake Carlisle may soon be returning to the backline.
Speaking on Saturday in the wake of his side's Anzac Day fadeout, Bombers coach Mark Thompson indicated that despite maintaining a strong belief Carlisle has the potential to be a quality key forward, it is increasingly likely he will be dropped from attack in the best interests of the team.
"I think Jake has the capability of being a forward, and I don't want him to be trying to do things outside of the team; he should be privileged to play, and work hard no matter where he plays on the ground. But we might play him down back. We've talked about that, and we will play him there at some stage if he's good enough to get a game," Thompson said on SEN radio.
He had been adamant on Friday following Carlisle's goalless showing against the Magpies that if the 22-year-old were to play at all in Essendon's senior team, he would be doing so as a forward.
“We are here to coach. Jake has the ability and characteristics to be a forward. He can play there, and if he wants to play this year anyway, he is going to play there," he said in his post-match press conference.
But the dual-premiership coach's comments suggest a possible backflip and a return to the backline for his tall.
Playing primarily as a target inside 50 for the past fortnight, Carlisle has not once registered a score, and in six games this season, rotating between the forward line and ruck, has kicked just three goals.
He was criticised last week for a perceived lack of effort against St Kilda, but Thompson believed he had witnessed an improved approach from Carlisle against the Magpies.
"He was frustrated last week, I think, and the way he handled it was he showed like he didn't try; he probably didn't try as well as he could've. He was probably consumed with what was going on in his head and he probably behaved the wrong way," Thompson said. "I think his attitude was better yesterday."
Thompson flagged the likely return of Tom Bellchambers from injury next week against the Western Bulldogs would allow his side greater flexibility with its forward set-up. "Bellchambers and Paddy [Ryder] will probably, now that we've got them both back ... it'll allow them two boys to spend some time in the forward line. Tommy's a proven goalkicker."