Essendon coach Ben Rutten insists he won’t allow his players to be “distracted” by Orazio Fantasia despite calls for the Bombers to rough-up their former teammate in their AFL clash with Port Adelaide.
Fantasia sought and secured a trade out of Essendon last November after an injury-riddled spell, heading home to South Australia to join a Power side in premiership contention.
The 25-year-old speedster kicked four goals in his first outing for Port in the AFL and Essendon club legend Matthew Lloyd this week urged Rutten’s men to attack Fantasia in a bid to put him off his game.
Lloyd’s call came after Collingwood were criticised in some quarters for giving their former player Adam Treloar a friendly reception during their loss to the Western Bulldogs in round one.
However, Rutten said Fantasia will not be treated any differently to other Power players at Adelaide Oval on Saturday.
“Raz (Fantasia) is a popular member of our group and spent a lot of time here, but he’s at Port now and he’s one of 22-23 really good players that we’re going to have to combat this week,” Rutten said on Thursday.
“That’s how we’ll treat him. He’s at another club now and we’ll treat him as we do all the other players.
“We’ll play hard against him as we will all of the opposition.
“We know Raz’s game a bit better than we do the rest of the Port players and maybe that’s an advantage, maybe it’s not.
“I don’t want our players to get too distracted about that. We want our guys to play our way.”
Lloyd said Essendon have lacked a ruthless edge for a long time and should go after Fantasia.
“They have to give him no warmth whatsoever,” Lloyd said on the Nine Network.
“The whole six defenders go down and Orazio would love nothing more than to shake their hands, he’s that type of confidence player.
“I would do quite the opposite. I know defenders, they zone, but put an arm across and put a hard whack on Fantasia nice and early and I think you could rattle him.”
Rutten will consider sending versatile tall Cale Hooker back to help Aaron Francis, Jordan Ridley and Jayden Laverde take on a tall Power forward line led by Charlie Dixon.
Todd Marshall and ruck pair Scott Lycett and Peter Ladhams also pose aerial threats to the Bombers’ defence.
Rutten said Jake Stringer will spend another week in the reserves on return from an achilles issue and first-round draft pick Archie Perkins will come into consideration for his debut.
It comes after Harrison Jones and Nik Cox debuted in the round-one loss to Hawthorn.