Fan-favourite Essendon ruckman Sam Draper has undergone off-season surgery after a frustrating 2023 campaign spent battling injury, providing a clearer picture as to why the Bombers have shown interest in a free agent ruckman this off-season.

After playing all 22 games for the Bombers in 2022, the 24-year-old managed just 14 AFL outings this year after sustaining a hip injury.

Draper played Essendon's first 13 games of the season before missing the club's eight subsequent contests until the Bombers' disappointing Round 23 outing against GWS.

While the ruckman's hip injury was thought to be his main inhibitor throughout the back half of the year, Essendon stated on Tuesday Draper has battled an ongoing groin issue.

"Our initial approach was to undertake a conservative rehab approach with Sam given the time of year," said Essendon General Manager of Performance Daniel McPherson. 

"We've been monitoring his progress daily and his improvement has been slower than we would have liked to this point."

McPherson provided the current timeline for Draper's return to main training.

"With pre-season approaching, we want to give Sam the best chance to return to training pain-free, and surgery gives him the greatest assurance of this. The plan will be to build him up leading into Christmas before integrating him back into main training in January," McPherson continued. 

"The role Sam plays requires power and agility to enable him to run and jump, and this injury has prevented him from being able to do that. It hasn't improved at the rate we would've liked, so it was decided that surgical intervention was required."

As Draper's ailment has the potential to keep the mulleted tall out sidelined to start the 2024 season, Seven reporter Mitch Cleary claimed it "further explains the interest" the Bombers reportedly have in off-contract Kangaroo Todd Goldstein.

"At Essendon, groin surgery for Sam Draper in the hope to have him running by January, which further explains the interest in Todd Goldstein at Bomberland," Cleary said on Tuesday evening.

Goldstein, who has played all 315 of his AFL games for North Melbourne, is thought to be interested in reuniting with former coach Brad Scott, who is now in charge at Tullamarine.

RELATED: Veteran Roos ruckman requests move

The 35-year-old is an unrestricted free agent this year, meaning he can transfer to the club of his choice without any Roos resistance.

Understood to have also attracted interest from Geelong, Goldstein appears to have multiple movement options to weigh up as the off-season swings into gear.


2023 free agency opens for business on October 6, to be followed by the commencement of the trade period on October 9.