Bombers boosted before their AFL opener

Jason Phelan
Tom Bellchambers will return for Essendon's round one AFL clash against Fremantle

Essendon's tall stocks have received a timely boost with lead ruckman Tom Bellchambers cleared to play, but uncertainty continues to cloud skipper Dyson Heppell's return from a foot injury.

John Worsfold gave reporters an update on the Bombers' preparations for their round one clash against Fremantle via video link on Tuesday amidst the continuing uncertainty of the coronavirus crisis.

Bellchambers underwent knee surgery in early February that put his availability for round one in doubt but if the season goes ahead, he'll be ready to lead the ruck division.

"He's available for selection, so that's great news for us," Worsfold said.

"We're mapping out what (the season) looks like for him. Initially we were mapping out 22 home-and-away rounds but that's changed."

Worsfold also said Conor McKenna and Jake Stringer, who have both had interrupted pre-seasons for personal reasons, are available for selection.

The AFL premiership season was reduced to 17 rounds on Monday and Worsfold expects game times will also be reduced.

That will help the likes of Cale Hooker (hip) and James Stewart (groin) who are nearing the end of their recoveries, but Heppell's return from two off-season foot surgeries appears some way off.

"I can't really tell you at all with Dyson, but Cale is progressing really quickly," Worsfold said.

"Cale and James Stewart ... they could be only a week away depending on their overall workloads.

"Fitness-wise they're over their injuries and now it's are they ready to step up and play senior footy?

"If the quarters are shortened then we'll potentially be more confident they'll be ready quicker."

The veteran coach has no problem with the season proceeding as planned given the safety procedures and health checks put in place by the league.

He is confident the players are focused on the task at hand and even looking forward to the relative normality of playing footy.

"I've had a few situations in my time in footy that have been a bit different," he said.

"This is at another level but it's round one, the players have done a mountain of work and they're excited about playing."