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“We’re really confident of retaining those guys”: Dogs calm with contract crunch looming


More than half the Western Bulldogs’ 2021 Grand Final team comes out of contract next season, but chief executive Ameet Bains says they are confident of getting the signatures they need.

List manager Sam Power made several key signings over the course of the year, and batted away speculation around disgruntlement at selection.

Skipper Marcus Bontempelli signed a four-year extension, while Tom Liberatore, Cody Weightman, Ed Richards and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan each signed for two more years.

Roarke Smith won a two-year deal after seven rookie contracts in a row, the Dogs committed to Laitham Vandermeer and Jordon Sweet for multiple seasons, and Mitch Wallis signed for one.

Unestablished players in Riley Garcia, Louis Butler and Buku Khamis also signed for another season, affording Power salary cap flexibility he’ll need over the next 12 months.

Of the Grand Final team, walk-up starters in Bailey Dale, Caleb Daniel, Josh Dunkley, Tim English, Alex Keath, Jason Johannisen, Bailey Smith, Jack Macrae and Taylor Duryea all come up for renewal.

Mitch Hannan, Josh Schache, Stefan Martin, Zaine Cordy are also without contracts for 2023 and beyond.

“We’re really confident of retaining those guys,” Bains told Sportsday on Thursday night.

“A number of those conversations are well in train. The pressure does come to continue to balance the numbers, particularly when you do go deep into the season and players emerge.

“Bailey Dale is a great example of that, as someone who attained All-Australian selection this year and is coming out of contract, and Caleb was (selected) last year.

“They deserve to be recognised for their performances, and Sam and the team have a bit of a job in front of them but we’re confident of getting that done, and having everyone recommit.”

Two key figures at Whitten Oval did not recommit, in long-term assistants Steven King and Ash Hansen.

King, who served as senior assistant for the past three seasons after stints in charge of the midfield and defence, will reprise his role at Gold Coast under Stuart Dew.

Hansen will take over the Carlton forwards having last season looked after the Dogs’ attacking line, and offer the Blues the experience of having coached his own reserves premiership team.

“We recognise and understand in the case of both those guys that they’ve delivered lengthy service to the club,” Bains acknowledged.

“Ash was here for nine years, Steve was here for 10 years, and were part of the coaching line-up for the premiership in 2016.”

The Dogs have promoted from within and rotated assistants before, and reserves coach Stewart Edge could make the step up after leading Footscray to the minor premiership.

Hawthorn premiership player Matt Spangher has also been linked with Hansen’s former role; his time at Waverley coincided with Luke Beveridge’s tenure as the Hawks’ defensive coach.

Bains revealed both King and Hansen had a year to run on their contracts at Whitten Oval, but went with the club’s blessing.

“It’s always disappointing when you see good people leave,” he lamented.

“But at the same time, we understand for their own careers and senior coaching ambitions, sometimes you do need a change of scene and working with a different group to progress.

“In the spirit of supporting our people and particularly those who have been with us for a long time, we were happy to see them spread their wings.”

The Dogs’ attention will soon turn to the draft, where they will likely have to match an early bid to secure father-son prospect Sam Darcy.

Western Bulldogs

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