Tom Bellchambers wants to stay at Essendon and probably will. Stewart Crameri, Cale Hooker, Scott Gumbleton, Tayte Pears, Jason Winderlich and Jake Melksham want to be there next year too.
Essendon’s list of uncontracted players includes some of its best and most improved players, and odds are most of them will remain. Jobe Watson re-signed for four years earlier this season with the investigation in full swing.
Dyson Heppell, Jake Carlisle and others have shown faith too. Whatever happened at Windy Hill last year, the players have hardly rushed for the door. But, for those who wish to leave, things may have become complicated.
In an ordinary year, Essendon would be in an enviable position, approaching the finals then the off-season. A young, improving list that has spent much of the season in the top four. Joe Daniher in the wings. A bunch of tall players that they can’t play all at once, meaning the sort of trade table clout the club hasn’t had in a long while. Motivation to be make a few moves, given their salary cap has become a little clogged.
For the players, this would have meant good things too. Whether he stays or takes a big offer from Greater Western Sydney, Bellchambers, for instance, is due a decent pay rise.
This is not exactly an average year, though. Whatever happens to their club, the players’ wait isn’t over. The fact the report handed to the AFL from the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority had the word ”interim” stamped on it says that and has made the Bombers’ off-season a talking point.
It means it could be harder for players who want to move, given the penalties that may come. It may be harder for those delisted to find a new home. It could become more difficult for the club to shake some change, to make room on their list, to perhaps nab an extra first-round pick or two.
”I haven’t picked up that feeling, that clubs won’t go near Essendon,” said one player manager. ”But I think everyone’s waiting to see what happens.”
Others have more trepidation. Players such as Bellchambers or Crameri could cost clubs a first-round pick, not to mention a lot of money. They wonder what it might mean if ASADA’s work isn’t done. Could they trade for a player, only to lose him for a long time should evidence be found?
Having talked Kurt Tippett out of Adelaide last year, Sydney had no choice but to stick by him when he was suspended for six months after the AFL finished investigating his against-the-rules deals with the Crows.
They coped. But the thought of bringing a player in, with no idea of what ASADA or even the World Anti-Doping Agency might do, makes some nervous.
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