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Aussie Rules: Hobbs could make Bombers debut

Essendon coach Ben Rutten says top draftee Ben Hobbs could be in line for his debut when the Bombers face Melbourne on Friday night.

Essendon are priced at 7/2 to win at the MCG and Rutten is weighing up his options after losing Zach Merrett due to injury.

Ankle issue

Merrett is facing a spell on the sidelines after suffering an ankle injury and Rutten says 18-year-old Hobbs is in the mix to replace him against the Demons.

Hobbs was the Bombers’ top selection at pick 13 in last year’s draft and Rutten will have no qualms  about putting him into the pressure cooker at the MCG.

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"Absolutely he is a chance," Rutten told reporters on Wednesday. "He has been working really hard on his game and another strong performance on the weekend (in the VFL) so he will certainly be in the mix of guys we're looking at."

Rutten says he will also check on the fitness of Dylan Shiel before naming his side but Nick Cox is definitely out with an ankle injury.

Smith support

Meanwhile Rutten has also jumped to the defence of Devon Smith who copped some heavy criticism for his performances last week.

"Last week, I thought Dev started really strongly but for whatever reason didn't quite have the impact that he would have liked in the back half of the game," Rutten added.

"We are there to drive a performance program, we need guys that continue to train and play well , he brings so much to us Dev. He is an experienced player now and we know what he can do but we also need him to get back to his best as quick as he can."

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