It appears Dustin Fletcher will have to play on into a remarkable 22nd season if he is to set a games record at Essendon.
A rare feel-good story for the Bombers has been put on hold after the club ruled out Fletcher for this Saturday night’s blockbuster against Richmond at the MCG.
The Bombers say Fletcher has sustained a hamstring injury at training while serving a two-game suspension for rough conduct.
With Essendon expected to be stripped of all premiership points in the fallout from the supplements scandal, and therefore eliminated from the finals race, Saturday night’s match was shaping as Fletcher’s last chance to set a club record of 379 games, a record he currently shares with Bombers legend Simon Madden on 378 matches.
But Essendon football operations manager Steve Alessio revealed on Monday that Fletcher had already been ruled out of contention for the Tigers game, so playing on in 2014 looms as the 38-year-old’s only option.
”Dustin last weekend hurt his hamstring during training, we tested it out during the week but he is going to miss this weekend’s game with a hamstring injury,” Alessio said.
”It is disappointing for Dustin and us that he won’t be out there for his 379th game.”
It’s understood Fletcher intends to play on and the Bombers are open, if not already committed, to offering him a contract for next year.
Fletcher’s manager Michael Quinlan, has also confirmed that he and the club will soon finalise a new one-year deal.
”I would love to be a part of the team next year but we will just have to see how the next few games go,” Fletcher said two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, St Kilda will give its own veteran, Justin Koschitzke, every chance to join fellow retirees Stephen Milne and Jason Blake in a farewell game against Fremantle at Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
Koschitzke’s troublesome calf needs to be given the green light from the medical staff before the key forward finds out whether he will be able to say goodbye to the club’s supporters in Melbourne, or whether he is resigned to the same fate possibly facing Fletcher.
Saints coach Scott Watters has made it clear Koschitzke, who has been marooned on 199 games, will be given a chance to reach the 200-game milestone as long as he can prove his fitness, and the Saints could yet name the 30-year-old on Thursday in a bid to give him right up until the last minute to show he can contribute.
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