Dons may draft some AFL top-up players

Essendon prolonged the AFL careers of James Kelly and Matt Dea earlier this year, now they’re contemplating an extension of the lifeline.

Kelly and Dea were among the 10 top-up players recruited by the Bombers, who lost 12 of their best and most experienced stars to doping bans earlier this year.

It was meant to be a one-season arrangement.

But former Richmond defender Dea and ex-Geelong gun Kelly have impressed the Bombers with their skill, leadership and durability.

Kelly has missed only two games this season, while Dea was a last-minute withdrawl in round 13 but has otherwise played every match this year.

“James Kelly and Matty Dea have been very strong performers all year,” Bombers coach John Worsfold said, when asked if the club would consider drafting any of the top-up talent.

“Matty Dea is in a prime age bracket. There may be other clubs who have seen how well he’s performed for us this year and may be looking at him.

“But we’ll certainly look at that as an option without guaranteeing anything and Kelly is a bit the same.

“We’ve just got to wait and see what options we’ve got in terms of numbers of picks in the draft and where it all sits.

“We’ll work through that after next week.”

Worsfold was full of praise for Dea, Kelly and the other eight olds hands who joined the club on short notice.

“They’ve all been outstanding. It hasn’t gone perfectly for a lot of them,” he said.

“They’ve all had fairly significant injuries … but the way they’ve fought through that and continued to add value has been outstanding.

“I suppose it’s a credit to the younger group that are on our list that we haven’t needed to play all of them every week.”

Mathew Stokes played his 200th – and final – game on Sunday, with Worsfold proud of the fact his club helped the 31-year-old reach the milestone.

“He’s forever part of the Essendon Football Club history now, and a well-respected part,” Worsfold said.

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