AFL

Banned Essendon players back in the game

Essendon are set to welcome back up to seven previously banned players, including former captain Jobe Watson, for Thursday's AFL pre-season clash with Collingwood.

All but three of the 10 remaining Bombers who served doping bans last year have been named in an extended squad to face the Magpies at Etihad Stadium.

Cale Hooker (hamstring), Brent Stanton (groin) and Tom Bellchambers (knee) have been left out of the 29-man squad, which will be trimmed to 26.

New captain Dyson Heppell and star key defender Michael Hurley are among the banned Bombers in contention for their first competitive hitout since being slapped with 12-month suspensions.

Bombers fans may also get their first glimpse of No.1 draft pick Andrew McGrath in action.

But Joe Daniher, who spearheaded Essendon's depleted forward line last year, will miss Thursday's game as he continues to recover from a knee injury.

Collingwood will be without captain Scott Pendlebury (rested) and star recruit Daniel Wells, who is being carefully managed after suffering a calf complaint earlier in the preseason.

But Jamie Elliott is set to make an emotional return after suffering a serious back injury which sidelined him for all of last season and threatened to end his career.

Key defender Lachlan Keeffe has also been included and could be set for his first game since the end of 2014 after serving a two-year doping ban.

Teammate Josh Thomas, who was also banned after the pair tested positive for the banned substance clenbuterol in February 2015, has been left out.

The Magpies have largely opted for youth for their first preseason clash, with Brodie Grundy, Adam Treloar, Taylor Adams and Ben Reid all sitting out.

Steele Sidebottom will captain the side in Pendlebury's absence, with former Fremantle forward Chris Mayne in line for a first appearance in a Collingwood guernsey.

Josh Daicos, the 18-year-old son of Magpies legend Peter Daicos, could also make a hotly-anticipated debut.

AAP