Essendon coach John Worsfold suspects banned skipper Jobe Watson will return for the 2017 AFL season.
Watson, who is 31 and fell out of love with the game during the Bombers’ supplements saga, was one of 12 players at the club to serve a season-long doping ban this year.
If Tayte Pears opts to retire and pursue his ambition to become a firefighter as expected, it leaves Watson as the only undecided member of that group.
Worsfold reiterated he didn’t want to rush Watson and was upbeat the midfielder would sign up for next year.
“My guess is he wants to play on next year but he has to make absolutely sure that’s what is in his heart,” Worsfold told the Nine Network.
“We’ll give him the time that he needs (to work that out).
“I’d love him to come back and play at Essendon because I’ve got no doubt he’ll really enjoy playing with the group we’ve got for next year and maybe the year after.
“He has to be absolutely clear and sometimes you don’t know when that moment’s going to be – when you say nah, I’m in.”
Worsfold said he had been in contact with Watson “pretty regularly”.
“He sent a message through last night about the win,” he said.
The final chapter of the doping saga, including a decision on the eligibility of Watson’s 2012 Brownlow win, will come following a Swiss court appeal against January’s Court of Arbitration for Sport verdict.
Meanwhile, Worsfold said he would love disgruntled Gold Coast midfielder Jaeger O’Meara to join the Bombers.
O’Meara has told the Suns he wants out.
“We’re looking over the next six or seven years to have a squad that will rapidly get back up the ladder and hopefully challenge (for a flag),” Worsfold said.
“So players around (the) 22 or 23-year-old age bracket are a perfect fit for us, especially ones as talented as an O’Meara.”