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High-flying Bombers avoid virus catastrophe before trip

Brad Scott is hopeful Essendon have avoided catastrophe by implementing COVID-style protocols after a virus threw up an unexpected hurdle in the club's preparation for the AFL clash with Gold Coast.

Scott is operating with drastically reduced staff numbers this week, and young forward Nate Caddy was ruled out because of illness when the extended squad was named on Thursday night.

It comes as the Bombers (8-2-1) seek to extend their unbeaten run to eight matches in the meeting with the Suns at Heritage Bank Stadium on Sunday.

"If there's a silver lining out of the COVID era and hubs and protocols (it's that) we've certainly enacted our protocols very quickly to minimise the risk," Bombers coach Scott told reporters before training on Thursday.

"All our players are fine, but we've got a skeleton staff because we've kept our staff away.

"Enacting the protocols was pretty quick and, touch wood, we've avoided catastrophe."

Essendon players have operated in smaller group training sessions this week, but were put through what appeared to be a standard main session at Tullamarine on Thursday.

"We've had a bit of a different week in terms of meetings and how we've structured that, but it's actually been really impressive to watch our players adapt to different circumstances," Scott said.

"It's also a sign that our players want to do more, not less."

Essendon's hot first half of the season has lifted them into the top two for the first time this far into a campaign since 2013.

They sit second behind leaders Sydney, sparking Bomber supporters' hopes that their infamous finals win drought, which dates back to 2004, will come to an end this September.

Essendon fans.
Essendon fans are excited about their team's season, but the coach isn't talking finals yet. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

But Scott won't use the "F word" just yet.

"Not the one you're thinking of," he said.

"It sounds boring, but all those things (finals) down the track will be the sum total of what we do between now and that point.

"We're just focused on the process that we go through, and that process has held us in good stead until this point in the year.

"The risk for us is we take our eyes off what's important right now and start thinking or even imagining what is possible."

Harrison Jones will return from a one-match suspension against Gold Coast, with Caddy out following his impressive debut in last round's win over Richmond.

Nik Cox has also been given the all-clear despite being subbed out of the Tigers clash with a hamstring issue. He was named on an extended bench this week.

Scott said Essendon will take a conservative approach to Will Setterfield's return from a hamstring injury and are likely to bring him back through the VFL this week, while defender Zach Reid needs more time to build fitness at the lower level.