Max Holmes optimistic he will be available for grand final; Magpies delist Brown brothers; Essendon Bombers re-signed Dyson Heppell; James Hird is “very, very keen” to return

“It is a reflection of the combined efforts of everyone involved in the football program and the wider club this season and affirmation of their hard work and perseverance.

″⁣We will continue to strive to be better each and every day over the course of the pre-season and into 2023.”

Magpie’s coach Craig McRae.Credit:Getty Images

AFLCA chief executive Alistair Nicholson congratulated McRae on his first season in the top job.

“What Craig has been able to achieve in his first year as senior coach of Collingwood is remarkable,” Nicholson said.

“Whilst there’ll be some disappointment after narrowly missing a grand final appearance, the belief and will to win he has instilled in his playing group in such a short time to see them rise back up the ladder this season has been thrilling to watch. ”

Hird ‘very, very keen’ to be Essendon coach

Jon Pierik

James Hird is “very, very keen” to be Essendon’s next coach, according to club great Tim Watson, but he still faces a major challenge to win the role ahead of a strong field.

Watson said on Tuesday that Hird’s interest in reclaiming a role he left in 2015 still burned bright, as the club continues its hunt for a replacement for Ben Rutten.

James Hird, chatting with Giants captain Stephen Coniglio, was back in the AFL fold this season.

James Hird, chatting with Giants captain Stephen Coniglio, was back in the AFL fold this season.Credit:AFL photos

Hird has interviewed for the role, as have former Gold Coast Suns assistant Dean Solomon, St Kilda assistant Brendon Lade and current Bombers assistant Daniel Giansiracusa. Adem Yze also impressed the coaching sub-committee, led by Carlton premiership coach Robert Walls and four-time Hawthorn premiership player Jordan Lewis.

Hird would be a controversial pick should the Bombers plump for him, as he was involved in the supplements scandal last decade, but he has been welcomed back into the AFL fold, having been an assistant to Giants caretaker coach Mark McVeigh this season.

“I’ve spoken to nobody that’s on the inside of this. But what I do know is that James Hird is very, very keen to be the coach of the Essendon Football Club, I know that for a fact,” Watson said on SEN.

“I am supportive of him throwing his hat into the ring and going for the job as hard as he likes. There have been others that have pulled out, we learned on the weekend that [Don] Pyke won’t be part of it, too.

“I’m still hearing from people around the edges of all this that Brad Scott still might be interested in going for the job, but I think that’d be at the very pointy end of interviews.”

Scott, as reported by The Ageis still weighing up whether to join the Essendon hunt, but only at the pointy end of the process because he is a known commodity, having coached North Melbourne for almost a decade, and been an assistant at Collingwood for three.

However, Scott is now in the prominent role at AFL House as football operations manager, and could leap higher should Andrew Dillon, the league’s football operations boss, replace outgoing league chief executive, Gillon McLachlan.

Bombers president David Barham has made it known he is keen for the new coach to be appointed by the end of the month.

Brown brothers delisted as part of Magpie moves

Jon Pierik

Collingwood may have been only one point shy of the grand final, but the Magpies are already busy in their bid to get better, delisting four players, including the sons of former skipper Gavin Brown.

The Magpies confirmed on Tuesday that Callum Brown, Tyler Brown, Isaac Chugg and Liam McMahon would not be offered new contracts, as the Magpies prepare to be active through the trade period.

Ruckman Brodie Grundy may also have played his last game for the club, while the Magpies are firmly in the hunt for Brisbane free agent Dan McStay, Bobby Hill, who has said he wants to be traded from the Giants to the Magpies, Adelaide’s Billy Frampton and Gold Coast’s Braden Fiorini.

Callum Brown is one of four players delisted by the Magpies, including his brother Tyler.

Callum Brown is one of four players delisted by the Magpies, including his brother Tyler. Credit:Getty Images

Callum Brown, often used as a high half-forward, played 70 games for the Magpies, having been taken as a father-son with pick No.35 in the 2016 national draft. Tyler, a big-bodied midfielder, had 27 after dealing with injury and illness issues. He was taken as a father-son with pick No.50 in the 2017 national draft.

Graham Wright, the Magpies general manager of football, said the club had made “tough” decisions.

“For Isaac and Liam, they are two players who have always done the team thing, and we thank them for their dedication to our club,” he said.

“Callum and Tyler – sons of premiership player Gavin Brown – we could not be prouder of their professionalism and the positive influence they have had on their peers during their time at the club. Callum has had six years at the club and has played 70 games while Tyler has spent five years at Collingwood playing 27 games.

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“On behalf of everyone at the club, we wish each player all the very best for their futures, and we hope they continue to develop their games and work towards reaching their football potential.

“As Collingwood people, we will continue to support each player on and off the field.”

The Brown brothers had been hoping for new contracts late in the season, but are now likely to look elsewhere to revive their AFL careers.

The speedy Chugg, who was delisted and re-rookied last year, managed two senior games, while McMahon, a key forward taken as a second-round selection in 2020, failed to make a senior appearance.

Grundy, who has met with Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin and captain Max Gawn, is firming to be a Demon, but they are likely to have to pay about $300,000 of his salary per season as part of the deal.

Generation game: father-son draftees Callum Brown and Josh Daicos with their dads and Magpie legends Peter Daicos and Gavin Brown in 2016.

Generation game: father-son draftees Callum Brown and Josh Daicos with their dads and Magpie legends Peter Daicos and Gavin Brown in 2016.Credit:Scott Barbour

Facing a salary cap squeeze, the Magpies are likely to re-sign Jordan De Goey, with coach Craig McRae calling for a deal to be done. They hope to retain forward Ollie Henry, who lost his spot late in the season, and is weighing up whether to leave. Henry’s initial two-year contract is about to expire. He was taken with pick No.17 in the 2020 national draft, and has booted 28 goals in 25 games.

The Suns are seeking to ease their salary cap issues, with Fiorini, a former No.20 draft pick, one player they are willing to release. He is contracted until the end of 2023.

Cats confident on replacements if Holmes not available

peter ryan

Geelong are working through several ideas of who might replace emerging wingman Max Holmes if he fails to prove his fitness ahead of Saturday’s grand final against Sydney.

The 20-year-old will be given every chance to prove his fitness after being subbed out of the preliminary final with what was initially considered a hamstring strain but may have been neuron pain.

Max Holmes remains optimistic he will play as the Cats lay back up plans

Max Holmes remains optimistic he will play as the Cats lay back up plans Credit:Getty

He ran laps and did some running under the eye of fitness staff on Monday. The Cats described his scan results as “encouraging” and sources said no tear was detected.

However, preliminary final emergencies Sam Menegola and Brandan Parfitt and medical-sub Mark O’Connor are all considered possibilities to replace Holmes if he is declared unavailable.

Parfitt played 16 games this season but has not played in the finals while Menegola, who can play as a wingman, is fresh having played seven of the final nine games of the season before being left out of finals. O’Connor is the more versatile of the trio, able to defend or lock down opponents in the midfield.

Assistant coach Shaun Grigg, who has played a significant role in reshaping the Cats’ midfield this season, said the coaches were going through many “what if” scenarios ahead of the clash.

“We have got a number of players that we would be happy to come in and play, we have got some really good players who have unfortunately missed out on finals,” Grigg said.

“As coaches we will plan [for] plan A, plan B and plan C as you would expect we would, but at the moment it is just too early to tell.”

Grigg said Holmes was optimistic he would be available and would train again on Wednesday, however the decision would be in the hands of the medical staff rather than the coaches.

“It’s day by day at the moment. Max is optimistic, but we just don’t know yet. [There is] more training tomorrow so we will give him a chance to prove himself,” Grigg said.

“He will be in the hands of our medical team and fitness staff. We have trusted those guys all year.”

Meanwhile, Shaun Higgins announced his retirement on Tuesday following a 260-game career with the Western Bulldogs, North Melbourne and Geelong.

Higgins, 34, played 23 games at Geelong after arriving in 2020. He had played 129 games at Whitten Oval and 108 at Arden Street.

The 30-year-old said in a statement that he was thrilled to be seeing out his career as a one-club player.

“It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to captain the club I grew up supporting,” he said. “The Essendon Football Club is my second home, and to see out my playing career here as a one-club player is incredibly special.

“Although this year has been tough, I have real belief in our playing group and I’m committed to continuing to support the growth of this program. I look forward to working with our new coach and putting in a big pre-season together as we build towards 2023.”

List manager Adrian Dodoro said Heppell was an “instrumental figure” at Essendon.

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“It is universally known how selfless and caring Dyson as a person is, and he has always done what he thinks is best for the team.

“Dyson’s recommitment to the club shows just how driven he is to take this club forward in 2023, and he remains incredibly important to our football program, both on and off the field.”

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