Essendon midfielder Heath Hocking has urged fellow banned Bombers to follow his lead and recommit to the club.
Hocking, who has signed a one-year contract extension taking in the 2017 season, was one of 12 current Essendon players suspended for the 2016 season for an anti-doping violation after the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s January decision upholding the World Anti-Doping Agency’s appeal.
The club has expressed a strong desire to welcome all 12 – including skipper Jobe Watson, captain-in-waiting Dyson Heppell and star defender Michael Hurley – back into the fold, but Hocking is the first to put pen to paper on a new deal since the CAS decision.
“I grew up supporting this great club and I’m an Essendon person through and through, and nothing could sway my passion for the football club,” Hocking said in a statement.
“I have a strong belief in the direction of the club, and I have no doubt, once we move past the challenges of this season, we will be well placed to achieve success.
“I hope the other boys feel the same way. It would be great to see them return to the club, so we can continue on this journey we started together.”
The 28-year-old has played 124 games for the Bombers since he was picked up as a rookie in 2006.
Several of the dozen players are already contracted for next season, but doubt surrounds the validity of their contracts given the bans handed down and pending legal action.
A total of 34 past and present Essendon players were banned for anti-doping code violations arising from the club’s ill-fated 2012 supplements program.