Essendon will be without star Cale Hooker for the first four games of the season as the 30-year-old twinged his hamstring then his calf in a cruel double blow.

The Bombers will be without Hooker for clashes against Greater Western Sydney, St Kilda, Melbourne and Brisbane and has been robbed of a pre-season by the latest knock. It means that Hooker will have to go into his first fixture, whenever that is, without much practise before the campaign.

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Talking about the injury, Essendom fitness coach Justin Crow said Hooker would be working hard to make sure he’s in top shape to recover.

“He’s picked up a soleus injury (which is) a calf strain that will cost him six weeks. Cale had been doing everything right. He’s a professional,” Fox Sports reported that Crow explained.

“It’s disappointing news for us and him but we’ll have to get back to rehab and keep building him up ahead of an early-season return.”

Hooker wasn’t the only Bombers man to pick up a niggle as Dylan Shiel couldn’t even finish his first game for Essendom thanks to a nasty dead leg. After crossing states and joining the Bombers from the Giants last year, Shiel picked up an injury against Carlton and limped out of the JLT Community Series defeat.

But never fear, because the new recruit will be available to play for Essendon on Thursday night as they take on Geelong in the last pre-season game.

“We all saw Dylan leave the ground after getting that knock to his thigh,” added Crow, who got the leg on ice straight away.

The fitness boss also trained Shiel’s application on the training paddock, and confirmed his availability for the Cats game at the end of the week.

And if there’s one thing footy fans love more than checking up the latest news, it’s going down the all casinos route and having a flutter on the pokies game. Punting goes hand in hand with the sport. Without Hooker, one bookmaker has Essendom at $2.10 to beat GWS on opening weekend.

That first game may feature two Bombers ruckman after Zac Clarke impressed on debut. Assistant coach Mark Harvey said the side may copy West Coast’s successful formula from last season and that playing two rucks was a ‘distinct possibility’.

Clarke continued: “Even when Zac Clarke went forward tonight he took a mark and kicked a goal, so that’s an interesting combination in itself.

“We’re all looking at West Coast who won the premiership last year, they played two ruckmen, so we are coming to grips with that ourselves from a selection point of view.”

Joe Daniher took to the field for the first time since round seven last season and made a telling introduction as he kicked the first goal. Daniher was a bit rusty, said Clarke, but will remain a huge player for the Bombers as they look to compete for a place in the last eight.

Talking about round one, and the new AFL rules have got some supporters in those who think more traditionally about the game. Legend of the game Chris Judd has recently been speaking about how much he likes the changes, which should benefit the flow of the game.

The first lot of pre-season games effectively trialled the new rules, which Judd believes will aid the game. “I thought they were outstanding, from a small sample size. It’s made it more traditional with new rules – that was a bloody good effort. 

“Usually the new rules, traditionalists hate,” Judd commented.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan also loved the result as he elaborated: “What I saw on the weekend was just bits of space that didn’t exist before. 

“I did notice midfielders at the centre clearance had time to be brilliant … I did notice leading forwards who seemed to have a bit more space and time.” 

Meanwhile, Essendon and Geelong’s VFL and AFL teams will face each other back to back during the Powercor Country Festival at the MCG.

The double header will take place on the 5th of May and features the VFL clash at 11:50am, before the team first teams face off at 3:20pm.