Essendon’s top-10 draft pick Aaron Francis has taken person leave from the AFL club.Top-10 AFL draft pick Aaron Francis has taken personal leave from Essendon to deal with a mental health issue.
Teammate Orazio Fantasia has revealed Francis had sought time away from the club.
There was also bad injury news for the Bombers, with a hamstring tendon injury to sideline Jayden Laverde for 10 weeks.
Laverde was injured during Saturday’s intra-club hit-out.
Francis, the No.6 pick in the 2015 national draft, has only managed five games in two seasons.
After last season, he unsuccessfully sought a trade back to his native SA.
“He’s an interesting one – he told the boys last week that he’s just going to take a bit of personal time, away from the footy club,” Fantasia told Adelaide 5AA radio on Tuesday.
“Aaron is going to be a crucial part of this team so to get him right off the field is No.1.
“You know how hard the game can be, even if you’re in a good head space.”
The Bombers later issued a statement, confirming why Francis had taken leave.
“Aaron is a wonderful young man and his decision to speak up and ask for help is extremely courageous,” football manager Dan Richardson said.
“The club will support Aaron in any way we can, and we will give him as much time as he needs to get better.
“He has an extremely strong network of support and we look forward to seeing him return to the club when he feels ready.”
Laverde’s hamstring strain is the latest injury blow for the 21-year-old, who has played 23 senior games since his 2015 debut.
He needed pre-season ankle surgery last year and did not return to the AFL until round 18.
Last week, Travis Colyer had foot surgery that will put him out of action for the first six rounds of the season.
But there is better news on star defender Michael Hurley, who hurt his left hand during Saturday’s hit-out.
A scan has shown no wrist fracture and he could be available for AFL pre-season matches.
n readers seeking support and information can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.