AFL: Essendon star Jordan Ridley could make Gather Round return

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Important Essendon defender Jordan Ridley is in the frame for the Bombers’ blockbuster clash against Port Adelaide on Friday night, but the selection call is set to come down to the wire.

The star interceptor was sidelined on the eve of the season with another quad injury and missed the Bombers’ first three games but could return to the backline in time for the tantalising Gather Round match-up.

Coach Brad Scott said Ridley could be picked to face the Power but whether he played would ultimately come down to a last-minute fitness test, while midfielder Will Setterfield (knee) was in a similar situation.

“I haven’t got a report whether (Ridley) will be available this week – it’ll be a bit of a challenge this week, we’ll have a short, sharp training session this week,” he said.

“It’d again be probably one of those situations where if we name him, we still have to test him … so we won’t be making any decisions (on Tuesday).

“He’s tracking along pretty well, but my message to the medical team with every player is we just need them at 100 per cent, so as long as that takes.”

Setterfield was a late withdrawal from the four-point win over the Saints with a swollen knee after an awkward landing on the SCG cricket pitch in round 2.

Scott said he “could’ve played” if needed and was expected to return pending a fitness test before Friday night.

The loss of the big-bodied midfielder did not prevent Essendon from again trumping their opponents in contested ball and at stoppages, which has been a strength this season.

Scott said credit for the consistent midfield performances despite personnel change had to go to assistant coaches Brent Stanton and Daniel Giansiracusa.

“They’ve really gone to work in the off-season, and to the players’ credit they’ve done the work,” Scott said.

“So it’s nice to see them getting some reward at the moment for it, but that doesn’t tick the box … it’s a constant work in progress, and as soon as we think we’ve got the contest area of the game (complete), we’ll get our comeuppance.

“We’ve still got a way to go – I think there are some good, positive signs, but that’s what it’s about for us, and when our supporters watch us play, they want to see that maximum effort and intent.”

The coach also praised Bombers skipper Zach Merrett, who had 20 disposals and six clearances in a monster second half to lead his side to the upset win.

“He’s doing an exceptional job. He’s got such a great eye for the game, he’s always looking to find a better way, and he’s never content with either his own performance or the team’s performance, and he continues to push me, which I’ve asked him to do,” Scott said.

“We take our responsibilities as captain and coach and the leaders of the football team really seriously, and I need to challenge Zach and he needs to challenge me … I think the combination is working really well at the moment.

“He’s as driven and as professional as just about any player I’ve seen.”

Scott again publicly played down expectations ahead of the clash with another side boasting a 2-1 record in Port Adelaide, saying he was impressed by the Power in their high-octane loss to Melbourne.

“It was great to watch it as a spectator … unfortunately I wasn’t really watching it as a spectator, I was watching it probably more with concern than awe,” he said.

“Friday night footy in Adelaide, it’s going to be a good test for us and one I think we’ll relish.”

Sam Durham was recovering well after his concussion on Saturday and was set to only miss one week, with minimal concern over his separate shoulder issue, Scott said.

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