Essendon veteran Michael Hurley is being given every chance to make a return to action next season after a hip injury saw him sidelined for the entirety of the club's 2021 campaign.

Hurley, 31, has spent portions of the year in hospital after an infection arose during the pre-season that saw him lose upwards of 10-kilograms.

As the former first-round draft pick remains a contracted to the Tullamarine based side for at least another season, Essendon head coach Ben Rutten told AFL Media that the club would stop at nothing to help the backman regain his starting-22 slot.

"'Hurls' is not far off getting a little procedure on his hip to just help out with the joint surface and I think that's something that's been earmarked for a little while now but we're waiting on getting the health of his hip to be stable enough for that," Rutten said.

"I think that's earmarked for the not-too-distant future. Hopefully with that he can build up and progress and hopefully he gets back to playing some footy. I know he's really keen on that and he's ambitious about that and we're going to support him with that the best we can."

Embed from Getty Images

Despite playing the vast majority of his 193-game career deep in defense, Hurley had in fact spent last summer re-tooling as a key forward before his aggressive ailments ended his year prematurely.

With Hurley's credentials as an on-field general obvious to anyone that has donned the sash, Rutten suggested that the season spent on the other side of the boundary had helped the Northern Knights product hone his leadership qualities

SEE ALSO: Windy Hill's witness: The silent spectator that has seen every strive for glory and fame

"The other impact that Hurls really had throughout the season was with the coaching he did and as a bit of a mentor for a lot of our players," Rutten said.

"It took him a couple of weeks to get his head around not having an influence on the field that he likes to have but the impact he started to have he started coaching with our VFL practice match games and he's a really important member of our playing squad."

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 31: Michael Hurley of the Bombers kicks the ball during the 2018 AFL round 02 match between the Fremantle Dockers and the Essendon Bombers at Optus Stadium on March 31, 2018 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Having finished the season with a return to the business end action, the excitement between Windy Hill and The Hangar has been palpable.

And with only one name - Harrison Jones - requiring off-season surgery, the Bombers are set to start their pre-season with a full-squad in an effort to break their well-documented finals drought.

After appearing in a red and black guernsey on 16-occasions during his debut season, Jones was sidelined for the final month-and-a-half of the club's fixture list once it was deemed that he required foot surgery.

"Outside of Hurls, 'Jonesy' had a recent operation but after that I don't think we've got any operations booked in so we're really hopeful that we'll hit the ground with pretty well a full squad," Rutten said.

"'Jonesy' might be a couple of weeks behind and Hurls obviously but I think we'll be pretty healthy which is such a big advantage to start a pre-season and build some of that chemistry."

The Dons are also expected to add wantaway Crow Jake Kelly to their defensive stocks this trade period, and have also been linked with Richmond forward-come-ruck, Mabior Chol.