Essendon buoyed by Draper return as Goldstein shines

Steve Larkin |

Essendon’s influential ruck Sam Draper will soon return to full training after having groin surgery.
Essendon’s influential ruck Sam Draper will soon return to full training after having groin surgery.

As Essendon’s influential Sam Draper nears a return to full training, teammates are lauding his ageing new ruck partner Todd Goldstein as a marvel.

Draper’s comeback from groin surgery is approaching completion with the 25-year-old expected to join full training within a fortnight.

And the pre-season track form of Goldstein, a 35-year-old veteran entering his 17th AFL season after transferring from North Melbourne, is also catching attention.

“Todd has been amazing,” Essendon vice-captain Andrew McGrath told reporters on Tuesday.

“I often marvel how long he’s been playing for.

“I was a little kid watching him dominate the league and now to be playing with him and be able to learn off a guy with that experience is amazing.

Todd Goldstein.
Todd Goldstein has impressed during Essendon’s pre-season since joining from the Kangaroos. (Morgan Hancock/AAP PHOTOS)

“He’s still doing it to an elite level. It’s unbelievable.”

The 25-year-old McGrath said Goldstein’s addition was a bonus for the Bombers’ ruck pair of Nick Bryan and Draper, who has been sidelined since round 14 last year because of his groin injury.

Draper has been participating in some drills at training but a full return looms from the end of next week.

“Sam is a super important part of our team,” McGrath said.

“He does add a buzz of excitement to our playing group and our fans.

“He has been running round, joining in on a couple of drills, so it’s only a matter of time before he’s back in the full program … we’re super excited about that.

“To have two other rucks flying and healthy, that’s a big positive for our playing group and when Sam gets back into the fold, it will be great for competition.”

Essendon haven’t won a final since 2004 but McGrath expects this year’s campaign to be solidified by the availability of Elijah Tsatas.

Elijah Tsatas.
The Bombers hope Elijah Tsatas can stay injury free and enjoy more game time in 2024. (Morgan Hancock/AAP PHOTOS)

The No.5 pick at the 2022 draft suffered a knee injury last pre-season and only played the last four games of the year.

But the talented midfielder has impressed the Bombers’ senior core with his efforts ahead of the fresh campaign.

“His appetite for learning, to get better – he’s always in a rush,” McGrath said.

“He wants to play well really quickly. And as an older guy now around the club, you love guys like that who push you harder.

“He has an appetite to improve and become a really great AFL player.

“He has had a great pre-season and I’m excited to see what he does.”