Bombers eye defence options to stop Blues

·2-min read

Essendon will ponder a defensive reshuffle in a bid to quell the influence of in-form Carlton key forward Harry McKay.

Power forward McKay has booted 22 goals in six games and is coming off a bag of six against Brisbane.

Michael Hurley's long-term unavailability and Cale Hooker's move forward rule out two of Essendon's bigger bodies while ideal match-up Aaron Francis is touch-and-go for Sunday's AFL match at the MCG after injuring his ankle against Collingwood.

"We're not sure just yet - we were pleased obviously when Aaron went down with (Jayden Laverde's) job on (Darcy) Moore and other opponents against Collingwood," coach Ben Rutten said.

"James Stewart's the other one who's back available after a hamstring injury, so we'll consider those options as well as (Brandon Zerk-Thatcher)."

Rutten said throwing Hooker back was a "consideration" but he was happy with the versatile tall's work up forward.

Reigning club champion Jordan Ridley will return from concussion to resume his free-wheeling intercept role in defence while young ruckman Nick Bryan will debut.

Rutten wouldn't rule out a hard tag on in-form Carlton midfielder Sam Walsh but preferred to back his on-ball brigade head-to-head.

"He (Walsh) is having a great year - it's great to see him really progress and he's quickly becoming a star of the competition," he said.

"We obviously know (Patrick) Cripps, what he's capable of as well

"While initially we'll try and back our midfielders in, we're certainly aware of what those guys can do and need to nullify their impact - in particular around stoppage."

The Blues are coming off back-to-back losses and have been susceptible to conceding big runs of goals this season.

"If we turn up ready to play, defend hard, compete in the contest, win the ball, hopefully we get those opportunities but it's not just going to be served on a platter," Rutten said.

"We're expecting them at their best and we need to turn up, show up and play our brand of footy."