“We will know over the next few days what the result of that is,” Kelly said.
“We are probably a little thin [on defenders if he misses footy] but we feel like we can cover that off.”
At quarter-time and three-quarter-time Essendon’s senior coach in waiting Ben Rutten looked to have the reigns, instructing the team when they came together from their line meetings. Current senior coach John Worsfold will hand over to Rutten at the end of this season.
Melbourne fielded only eight AFL listed names, most notably Josh Wagner and Jayden Hunt. The rest were Casey VFL players. The Demons play Adelaide in a Marsh Community Series game on Saturday.
Other players to miss out on the game for Essendon included Conor McKenna (overseas) plus Jake Stringer, Dylan Shiel, Devon Smith and new recruits Jacob Townsend and Andrew Phillips. Essendon play West Coast in Perth in their first Marsh Community Series game on Thursday.
On the positive side Andrew McGrath and Zach Merrett played well while David Zaharakis returned strongly from off-season knee surgery kicking two goals early while Fantasia looked sharp. McGrath spent a lot of time on the ball while Zaharakis swapped between midfield and forward with Fantasia playing exclusively forward.
Darcy Parish came on at half time with McGrath, Zaharakis and Merrett resting in the second half.
Off-season recruit Cutler was one of the leading players on the field, if not the best. He began on the wing and put on a nicely balanced display with his penetrative kicking and clean distribution in the clinches, also kicking two neat goals.
Both of Fantasia’s goals came out the back of the contest with the Melbourne defence letting the ball through to the unmarked South Australian. More importantly Fantasia showed he was running freely and confidently across three quarters following an injury-interrupted 2019.
“To his credit he pushed through a lot of discomfort last year but he has had a good pre-season, he’s got everything sorted out,” Kelly said.
“Felt like he moved really well [today].”
Brayden Ham had a couple flashes of brilliance including a nice intercept mark and a well taken on the run goal while recent Irish recruit Cian McBride did not look out of place across half back.
Essendon had two potential supplementary selection period rookies playing. Brynn Teakle showed off his big leap in the ruck and at full forward while Nigel Lockyer tried hard to inject run and penetration off half back. Both were good but Teakle stood out, also kicking a goal.
Jayden Laverde also looked strong in the air kicking three goals.
Anthony is a sports reporter at The Age.