Essendon play safe as Nathan Grima eases back towards AFL training load

Essendon play safe as Nathan Grima eases back towards AFL training load

Essendon will ease Nathan Grima back into AFL training, as he prepares to play his first game in nearly a year and a half.

The Bombers announced on Thursday that Grima, 30, had joined their ranks as a top-up player, but said he would play little if any role in Friday morning's intra-club match at Tullamarine.

Comeback: Nathan Grima (left) has joined the Dons.

Comeback: Nathan Grima (left) has joined the Dons.Credit:Getty Images

Grima would take part in the warm-up, and perhaps some of the match, but would have limited involvement in what would be his first competitive hitout since North Melbourne's 2014 preliminary final loss to Sydney.

The former Kangaroos tall defender had been expected to land at the club, having overcome the serious back issues that caused his retirement midway through last year.


Bombers list manager Adrian Dodoro was adamant the club had been meticulous in ensuring Grima was ready for an elite return.

"We didn't make this decision overnight. We've had ongoing discussions with Nathan, his surgeon and the North Melbourne medical team, and obviously needed to conduct significant due diligence before we put an offer on the table," Dodoro told the Essendon website.

"We know Nathan is a very talented player, but we needed to make sure his body is capable of enduring the physical demands and challenges of an AFL season. He passed an extremely thorough medical, a tough fitness assessment by our strength and conditioning team, and was given the all-clear to resume full contact sport by his surgeon. Nathan will provide us with some much-needed experience in defence and I'm positive our young players will benefit from his presence around the club."

Grima said the way his eight-year stay at Arden Street ended had sat uneasily with him, and he was keen to restart his career as one of the replacements for the dozen Essendon-listed players suspended last month by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

"I'm really excited about joining... this season, and can't wait to have a second chance at playing AFL," Grima said, after joining James Kelly, Mathew Stokes, Ryan Crowley, Mark Jamar, Jonathan Simpkin, Matt Dea, Sam Grimley and James Polkinghorne as AFL-sanctioned locums.

"At first it was my surgeon, John Cunningham, who gave me the confidence that I could get back and play senior football. And after the club's medical staff put me through my paces, I had no doubt in my body or my decision.

"My heart is in this 100 per cent. My wife, family and friends are behind me 100 per cent, and I was never content finishing my career the way I did. I feel I still have plenty to offer the Essendon Football Club and can help mentor a young list that will face some unique challenges this season."

Grima played 86 games at North after being recruited as a mature-age rookie before the 2008 season. He had been training with Essendon and District Football League club Strathmore, but his plans to play at local level have now been shelved.

Most of the hodgepodge Dons will play in Friday morning's clash, with notable exceptions including ruck pair Jamar and Matthew Leuenberger, the latter of whom is close to returning after a recurrence of his long-standing Achilles issue.