Western Bulldogs great Doug Hawkins has appealed for the club to stick with maligned forward Jake Stringer, one of several disgruntled Dogs who wants out of the kennel.
The Bulldogs are eager to test the open market with some of their 2016 flag-winning stars to revitalise their playing list in the hope of returning soon to the premiership dais.
Stringer is non-committal about staying at the Dogs, despite being contracted until 2018.
Hawkins said Stringer, better known as ‘The Package’, was too good a player to let slip.
“He’s a critical part of our footy club. You don’t let a bloke of his talent go. He’s just too bloody good,” Hawkins told ESPN.
“He’s an outstanding player who’s best footy is ahead of him. He can rip a game a part in a blink of an eye.
“I hope the club can stick by them and they stick by the club. I would hate to see him in another jumper.”
The dangerous forward has had an underwhelming year since helping the Dogs to their fairytale premiership last season. The 23-year-old mustered just 24 goals from 16 goals this year – 32 goals fewer than his All-Australian season in 2015.
Stringer’s teammate Mitch Wallis told Melbourne radio this week that the enigmatic forward had not yet committed to the Bulldogs beyond this year.
“The club’s given him every opportunity for the last four or five years but it’s still up in the air and he still has to really commit to the club,” Wallis said on SEN. “They want a full commitment from him and not one where he’s unsure.”
The Bulldogs are considering a radical approach with their playing list to haul themselves back into flag contention, and that means being prepared to trade some much-loved players.
Tenacious on-baller Tom Liberatore could be one of those players after he was dropped early in the season and forced to spend three weeks toiling in the VFL.
The 2014 best-and-fairest winner is contracted for next season, but could seek new opportunities at a club hungry for a contested midfielder.
Hawkins also went into bat for Liberatore, saying the ‘son of Tony’ was the “heart and soul” of the Bulldogs midfield.
“Now is the time for Libba to become the great Western Bulldog player we think he can be,” Hawkins told ESPN.
“He’s set to play his best footy. He just needs to give himself a monster preseason to give himself every opportunity to fire.”
Mitch Honeychurch is out of contract this year, while Shane Biggs and Clay Smith both had topsy-turvy years and don’t have deals beyond 2018.
The Bulldogs had little success with towering forward Travis Cloke, who had a season interrupted season through injury and his public battle with depression.
Cloke is eager to regain his spot in the best 22, but it could ultimately impact the make-up of the forward 50, with Stewart Crameri on the outer.
The former Essendon forward could be forced to wait until the end of trade period for a new deal to be offered.
The veteran forward played just two matches after suffering a hip injury that ruled him out from mid-season.
Collingwood looms as the front-runner in attracting the 29-year-old in a move that could improve the dynamic of the Magpies forward line.
The Bulldogs were the first team since Hawthorn in 2009 to win a premiership and fail to make the finals the following year.