No one is more relieved than teammate Jake Melksham to see Heath Hocking back in the Essendon lineup.
The Bombers are on a three-game AFL losing streak and sit uncomfortably on 2-4 after six rounds.
On Saturday night at Etihad Stadium they face the hard-nosed Western Bulldogs, who are ranked second for contested possessions.
The return of Hocking and club champion Brendon Goddard are causes for celebration for Essendon.
“BJ (Goddard) has that versatility where he can go back or forward,” Melksham told reporters on Friday.
“We’ve got Heath Hocking back who plays that really sacrificial role.
“So they are two bigger, experienced, stronger bodies who will boost our midfield.
“Heath is our tagger. I had to tag last week so I’m not sure if I’ll be tagging this week.
“It might make my job a little bit easier.
“I’ve experienced it first-hand, having to tag when he’s out of the team.
“The work that he does and the opponents that he comes up against are A-grade opponents. He’s very highly rated in our footy side.”
The Bulldogs are also on a 2-4 record and will be looking to ex-Bomber Stewart Crameri to continue his solid form.
Essendon’s three-time leading goalkicker has booted 14 majors for the Bulldogs.
Melksham dined with Crameri on Tuesday.
“He’s chosen to leave the footy club and we’re looking forward to playing him,” Melksham said.
“He was more worried about who is going to play on him. He is a tough match-up.”
Melksham says it’s a huge game for Essendon.
“The first six weeks were pretty tough for us and we’ve got that behind us,” he said.
“It’s a must-win. We need to get back up into the top eight.
“We want to be in the top four to be a contender in the finals.
“Our hard work really has to start from this week.”
Melksham says Jake Carlisle, who enjoyed a breakthrough season last year as a key defender but has struggled as a key forward in 2014 with three goals in six games, is showing signs of improvement.
“We just try to get him the ball as much as we can on the field. Our delivery hasn’t been great,” Melksham said.
“Around the club we’re just trying to get his confidence up.”
Former All-Australian defender Dale Morris returns for the Bulldogs, while Daniel Giansiracusa is one of four omissions.