In-form Francis nears AFL return for Dons

Roger Vaughan
Aaron Francis is getting closer to a return for the Bombers

First he re-found happiness and now Aaron Francis is on the verge of an AFL recall.

The resurgence of the 2015 No.6 draft pick is some much-needed good news for Essendon, who are in the wars ahead of Sunday's match against Brisbane at the 'Gabba.

After two big wins over Geelong and GWS, they were no match last Saturday night for reigning premiers Richmond in a 71-point mauling.

They also lost in-form midfielder David Zaharakis with a shoulder injury.

Francis is among seven additions to their extended squad for Sunday, with the 22 to be finalised on Friday.

Essendon are 4-7 and two games plus percentage outside the top eight.

But Francis has been through more-fundamental problems.

He was denied a trade back to his native South Australia at the end of last season and, in February, had several weeks off to deal with a mental health issue.

Francis has had a solid run of VFL form to put him in the frame for his sixth AFL match.

Coach John Worsfold said, more importantly, Francis was in a good frame of mind again.

"Ultimately, our first aim was that we just want to see a happy young man regardless of footy and we've been seeing that, so that's been great," he said.

"But he's also a talented young footballer and he does love playing footy, so that was the next part of it; getting back where he's playing good footy.

"So we're really pleased with how all that's unfolded."

Worsfold said Francis was in strong contention to make Sunday's team.

"Aaron's getting to that point now where his match-hardened fitness is just about at the required level and his form's looking pretty solid," Worsfold said.

"Definitely his name is now talked about what role he could possibly play for us and if he's ready for that role."

The Lions were also no match last weekend for North Melbourne and Worsfold expected a fiery reception.

Worsfold added that Essendon had learned their lessons from last Saturday night's disaster.

"Suffice to say we got the ball inside our inside 50 53 times and kicked six goals, so that's been addressed," he said.