Essendon coach John Worsfold is pleased with Joe Daniher's gradual return to fitness, but a return game for the key forward remains uncertain.
Having been restricted to 11 AFL matches in the past two seasons, the 2017 All-Australian is still recovering from persistent groin issues.
Despite Essendon legend Tim Watson on Tuesday declaring Daniher would play in the next three weeks, Worsfold is reluctant to confirm when the 26-year-old will be back.
The four-time Essendon leading goalkicker has already been ruled out of a scratch match this weekend as the Bombers prepare to clash with North Melbourne at Metricon Stadium on Saturday night.
Daniher hasn't played since round nine last year - 14 months ago.
"He's (Daniher) enjoying his training program at the moment. He's progressing pretty well," Worsfold told reporters on Thursday.
"It's (the program) mapped in a lot of detail and we just keep following that.
"If we get to a point where he can't, or doesn't pull up well, we'll take half a step back.
"At the moment we're really pleased with how everything's tracking."
The Bombers' scoring power will be tested against North, with Jake Stringer's long-term ankle injury to force a rethink of their forward structure.
Stringer has been Essendon's leading goalkicker during the last two seasons - and Daniher claimed that honour in the four years prior to the former Western Bulldogs livewire arriving at Tullamarine in 2018.
But Stringer's replacement won't be James Stewart, with Worsfold declaring it would be a risk to play the former GWS forward off limited training after recently completing coronavirus quarantine.
"We're really confident in what we're trying to build and how we're trying to play," Worsfold said.
"We want to make sure we stick to that as much as we can.
"We trust our other players are going to step up and get their opportunity to come into the team."
Australian Associated Press