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Essendon Bombers delist Craig Bird and Ben Howlett but Shaun McKernan offered another year
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Premiership player Craig Bird and veteran Ben Howlett have been squeezed out of Essendon following the club’s trade period recruiting drive, but there was better news for journeyman ruckman Shaun McKernan, whose career is set to extend to a 10th season after he was offered another year on the club’s rookie list.

Howlett, 29, played 124 games since making his debut for the Bombers in 2010, however the midfielder appeared just seven times at senior level this year having been one of the 12 2016-listed Dons to be banned for the duration of that season.

 

Bird, 28, spent two years at Tullamarine after being traded from Sydney as part of the deal in which Jake Carlisle joined St Kilda. He played 20 games with the Bombers, but just two this year, following 137 at the Swans where he was a member of the 2012 premiership team.

Untried youngster Alex Morgan, out-of-favour midfielder Jackson Merrett and small forward Josh Green had all remained out of contract at Essendon heading into the trade period.

 

While former Brisbane Lion Green is expected to stay at the Dons, the futures of Merrett and Morgan remain unclear ahead of next Tuesday’s first list lodgment deadline.

McKernan – who has played 18 games in three years at Essendon after 34 in six seasons at Adelaide – played just three senior games in 2017 but remained valuable cover for senior-listed big men Matthew Leuenberger and Tom Bellchambers, and was an emergency for the club’s elimination final against the Swans. It’s understood McKernan was informed early this week that he would be retained in 2018. He was taken by the Dons as a rookie late in 2014 and elevated during 2015, before being delisted and picked up again as a rookie last year.

Bird and Howlett join Heath Hocking in being delisted, with Jobe Watson, Brent Stanton and James Kelly having retired. The Bombers brought in Jake Stringer, Adam Saad and Devon Smith via trades earlier this month.

“He is always focused on wanting to play his role for the team, to the best of his ability.

“There’s no doubt 2016 was tough on the players who had to watch from the sidelines, but the way Ben returned, performed and mentored his younger teammates is a credit to him and his family.

“The modern game is relentless and to start as a rookie and go on to play more than 100 games is an outstanding effort, and Ben leaves having made a huge contribution to the Essendon Football club.

“Ben will always be welcome at Essendon, and on behalf of everyone at the club we wish him and his young family all the very best for the future.”

The coach also praised Bird, who helped the depleted Dons last year.

“Craig has been a pleasure to work with during his career at Essendon,” Worsfold said.

“His attitude, leadership and commitment to the success of the club has been outstanding.

“Craig played a key role in 2016 through our midfield and helped us through a very tough year.

“On behalf of the club, I would like to thank Craig and wish him all the best with his future endeavours.”

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