Bombers' Ryder coup
ESSENDON has retained one of its most valuable assets with star big man Paddy Ryder re-signing with the club on a four-year deal, ending speculation he could be poached by Greater Western Sydney or return to his native Western Australia.
The 24-year-old seems destined to end his AFL days as a Bomber after the long-term contract was finalised yesterday, which will commit him to Essendon until the end of the 2016 season.
The re-signing is another coup for the Dons, with GWS circling and West Coast also interested in Ryder, and comes soon after star key forward Michael Hurley was also retained on a five-year contract.
"My contract has been sorted and I am happy to be a Bomber for another four years," Ryder said last night. "I love this place and everyone that's involved in this footy club. I've also got great mates here and coaches I really look up to.
"I'm a big family man and it has always been on my mind about going home and being closer to my family, but I've made the right decision for my family in Melbourne, my partner and also because I know the Essendon Football Club is the place for me to get the best out of myself," he told Essendon's club show The Hangar.
Essendon coach James Hird said the re-signing was exciting news for everyone associated with the Bombers.
"Paddy is a fantastic talent, an integral part of our team and our culture, so it is very exciting for the Essendon Football Club to have Paddy stay on for another four years," he said.
"Most importantly, it's exciting to have re-signed so many of our core group with David Zaharakis, Michael Hurley, Jake Melksham and now Paddy Ryder all committing to the club in long-term deals recently.''
Ryder has been in consistent form this season, following on from his ninth placing in Essendon's best and fairest last year.
He has formed a valuable partnership with Tom Bellchambers, the latter's good form in the ruck enabling Ryder to spend more time in front of goal, where he has managed more than one goal per game so far this year, and for the moment, pushing veteran David Hille into the background.
He is averaging 15 disposals and six marks per game, career-best figures, as well as more than 20 hitouts.
Ryder was drafted from East Fremantle with the No. 7 selection of the 2005 national draft, the Bombers' first pick that year.
He has played 126 games and booted 86 goals. He has proved extremely durable during his senior career, missing only four matches through injury during that time.
Ryder has been used both forward and in defence as well as the ruck in his seven seasons with the club, but stamped his name as a potential superstar with an Anzac Medal-winning performance in Essendon's memorable last-second triumph over Collingwood in 2009, when he assumed sole ruck responsibilities after the injury to Hille.
Ryder struggled with an extended form slump last year, Hird's first as coach, but the former Bomber champion-turned-mentor stuck by his man, and was rewarded when Ryder's form improved significantly in the second half of the season.
Essendon is proving a hard nut to crack for the AFL expansion clubs on the lookout for senior talent.
The Bombers have avoided so far the pain of losing a star player to either Gold Coast or the Giants, who last year, under their terms of entry, claimed Tom Scully from Melbourne, Phil Davis from Adelaide, Callan Ward from the Western Bulldogs and Rhys Palmer from Fremantle.