A persistent hamstring injury set back Hooker's development in 2011 after he established himself as the club’s centre half-back in 2009 and 2010. The disciplined and reliable defender had an excellent start to the year before tearing his hamstring in round 13 against North Melbourne. He played only one more game for the year—against Port Adelaide in round 23.
A key player in Essendon’s defence, Cale Hooker played a number of important roles shutting down opposition key forwards during the season. His attitude to the contest and competitive nature saw him play 17 games this season, an improvement on just 13 matches during an injury interrupted 2011.