Sport AFL AFL: Bombers’ finals celebration marred by Zaharakis injury
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AFL: Bombers’ finals celebration marred by Zaharakis injury

Essendon players celebrate in Perth on Saturday night after their big win. Photo: Getty
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Essendon is locked and loaded for the AFL finals, but veteran David Zaharakis faces an uphill battle to play after Saturday night’s 32-point win against Fremantle.

Essendon will round out their home-and-away campaign with a Friday night blockbuster against Collingwood at the MCG.

But the availability of Zaharakis looms as a concern for the Bombers.

Zaharakis’ left ankle rolled awkwardly after getting trapped under his body early in the second quarter against Fremantle.

The 29-year-old was unable to return to the field, and was wearing a moon boot and on crutches by the end of the match.

Zaharakis has only played three finals during his 207-game career, and is yet to win one.

The veteran midfielder will be desperate to be available for the first week of Essendon’s finals campaign, but will be anxiously waiting the results of scans on his ankle.

“It’s pretty sore,” Bombers coach John Worsfold said of the ankle.

We’ll have to wait and see exactly what that is. But if they don’t finish a game it’s not a good sign for next week.”

Swingman Cale Hooker (groin) was a late withdrawal against Fremantle, but is expected to return next week.

Fremantle won the inside 50m count (59-48), clearances (43-29), hitouts (58-17) and contested possessions (178-123), but Essendon’s run-and-stun style proved too much to handle.

Worsfold didn’t seem overly concerned by his team’s thrashing in the contested possessions.

“Most of them were around stoppage work. They did have the dominance in that, and a lot of it came from chaining out of those stoppages,” Worsfold said.

“They were well on top there, which meant we had to defend really well behind the ball, and I was really happy with the way we set up.

“And it also meant that if we set up well behind the ball we could potentially get through them on the counter.”

Fremantle would have been back in the finals picture if they had beaten Essendon, and coach Ross Lyon was left to rue his team’s poor skills – an area that has blighted the team for the past four years.

Ruckman Aaron Sandilands and goalsneak Hayden Ballantyne used Saturday night’s match to farewell Dockers supporters.

Aaron Sandilands carries Hayden Ballantyne off the ground. Photo: Getty

After the match, Lyon confirmed the duo wouldn’t be selected for next week’s clash with the Power in Adelaide.

Sandilands piggy-backed Ballantyne off the field after the match in a touching moment.

“They are best mates,” Lyon said. “They are warriors on the ground.”

-AAP