Bombers enter 2024 with a host of out-of-contract talent


Archie Perkins is one of Essendon’s brightest young prospects.

Archie Perkins is one of Essendon’s brightest young prospects.Credit: Getty Images

Connors told SEN post-trade period that Shiel “would have looked at it” if Essendon’s then-list boss Adrian Dodoro had not rejected the Saints’ advances. A move to St Kilda would have been Shiel’s third AFL stop after starting at GWS.

Duursma’s arrival adds to a midfield logjam that already included captain Zach Merrett, Darcy Parish, Shiel, Caldwell, Will Setterfield, Perkins, Ben Hobbs and Tsatas, not to mention Stringer’s centre-bounce cameos.

“These things just get floated. I think in the business world we’re in; you’ve got to be up for anything,” Connors said. “Although Dylan’s been injured; I think he’s got a point to prove to say, ‘Hey, I’m a pretty good player’.”

The sheer volume of Bombers without their future decided owes to various factors. Essendon are at a fascinating stage under Scott, whose side lost seven of its last 10 games, with two of the wins narrow ones over cellar-dwellers North Melbourne and West Coast. They suffered defeats by a combined 196 points in rounds 23 and 24.

A continuation of the second half of last season could lead to the Bombers being more willing to part with 30-somethings such as Stringer, Shiel and Heppell, particularly if they fail to fire individually.

Heppell, 32 in May, was the only one of that trio to finish in the top 10 of last year’s Crichton Medal, and the average age of the other nine players entering the coming season is less than 25.

Three of the five players not in that group who played at least 20 matches in 2023 are 22 or younger, and also out of contract – Perkins, Durham and Jye Menzie – while the other two, Zerk-Thatcher (Port Adelaide) and Andrew Phillips (retired), are no longer at Tullamarine.

How many players are out of contract at your AFL club?

Adelaide (14), Brisbane Lions (15), Carlton (15), Collingwood (16), Essendon (22), Fremantle (15), Geelong (21), Gold Coast (21), GWS Giants (17), Hawthorn (18), Melbourne (17), North Melbourne (20), Port Adelaide (14), Richmond (23), St Kilda (22), Sydney Swans (17), West Coast (18), Western Bulldogs (16).

  • Figures are mostly based on public information, with the length of some player contracts not announced

They have a good mid-to-late 20s group, including Merrett, Parish, Kyle Langford, Mason Redman, McGrath, Jordan Ridley, Sam Draper, Peter Wright and recruits McKay and Gresham, so they do not lack experience.

Matt Rosa, who played 207 games for West Coast and Gold Coast, has taken over as the club’s list boss from Dodoro, but the latter is sticking around for an indefinite period.

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Essendon rarely rush to sign their young players, so it is no surprise – or cause for alarm – that some of their best prospects remain out of contract. It was a similar story with Hobbs last year, while Cox, Perkins and Zach Reid were among the last first-rounders from the 2020 draft to extend their rookie deals.

Top-10 pick Reid, who has endured an injury-cursed run to date, is under contract through next year.

The Bombers have also already locked away key members Langford and Ridley (2026), Nic Martin, Merrett and Wright (2027), and Parish and Redman (2028) for the long term.



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