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Woosha "confident" on keeping Hurley as Dogs sniff out a prize recruit

Football

Essendon coach John Worsfold is “very confident” uncommitted Bomber Michael Hurley will remain with the club, despite reported interest from Adelaide and a public show of attention from the Western Bulldogs.

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Worsfold appears to have changed his view on AFL rivals expressing interest in his banned Bomber fleet, declaring it par for the course.

In June, Worsfold was outraged by Melbourne’s interest in Michael Hibberd, calling it “outside the laws of the game”.

And with newly re-signed Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge publicly declaring his interest in Michael Hurley – “a very, very good player” – another hands-off warning from Worsfold could have been expected.

But the former West Coast coach has mellowed.

Worsfold is now cool and calm about any approaches, saying his hands-off warning to Melbourne was “just a little bit of an over-reaction from me”.

“I would expect that it wouldn’t just be the Western Bulldogs that are interested in Michael Hurley,” he said today.

“If it is, that’s a bonus. I’d expect there’d be plenty more clubs with plenty of interest because he’s a star player.

“But I’m really confident he’ll be playing for Essendon.”

Worsfold said as time went on, he expected it would be played out more publicly and he was comfortable with that.

“That’s the industry, that’s what it’s all about,” he said.

“There’ll be talk about whether Jobe (Watson) will play on, whether Michael Hibberd is still at the club.

“Until they’re finalised that will go on.”

The uncertainty around the players banned for the 2016 season under anti-doping breaches has created a challenging situation for Worsfold.

Ben Howlett, Tayte Pears, Brent Stanton and Hurley, Watson and Hibberd are yet to make clear where they’ll be in 2017.

The uncertainty will have flow-on effects for Adam Cooney, who is out of contract at year’s end.

Worsfold said he had started a conversation with the 2008 Brownlow Medalist about his future but wouldn’t be able to finish it until knowing more about the plans of his senior banned players.

“That’s one of the factors, absolutely,” he said.

“The number one thing is whether Adam Cooney believes he’s physically and mentally capable of playing out another season at AFL level… if that’s the case then he’s on our list of what our squad might look like next year.

“How many players we need to move off our list to move forward is a real unknown to us.”

Beveridge said yesterday his club would attempt to lure Hurley – considered a prime recruiting target for the Adelaide Crows – should he decide to leave the Bombers.

The 26-year-old is contracted for next season and, while the Bombers are keen to keep him, it is believed they won’t stand in his way if he decides to depart the club.

“There’s a handful of Essendon players who are obviously making a decision around their futures – whether they’re going to re-commit to the Bombers or whether they feel like they’ve got a different path ahead of them,” Beveridge said.

“If any one of the boys who hasn’t made a decision decides they want to move on, us, like the other 16 clubs, need to consider the prospect on them coming in.

“Michael is one of those (players). He’s a very, very good player and if that’s the decision Michael makes, ultimately we need to make sure we throw our hat in the ring.”

Adelaide and North Melbourne have also been speculated to be in the hunt to lure the star defender.

Hurley would be a welcome addition to a side on the cusp of challenging for a premiership but Beveridge has more pressing concerns.

The Bulldogs have been in damage control of late in the face of a flurry of injuries but Beveridge dismissed the notion his side’s premiership ambitions will have to wait until next year as a result.

“Try telling our players that,” he said.

“We feel like there’s still a lot of growth left in us… we feel like there’s some boys who can definitely come into the side and help us on our way.”

Beveridge revealed there is a slim chance Dogs forward Stewart Crameri, also serving an anti-doping suspension stemming from Essendon’s supplements program, could play finals this season if the players’ appeal is upheld by a Swiss court.

Beveridge signed a three-year contract extension yesterday, tying him to the club until the end of the 2020 season.

-AAP

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