MINDFUL that Carlton and its new coach, Mick Malthouse, are in the race to lure Collingwood forward Chris Dawes, Melbourne coach Mark Neeld is still hopeful his relationship with the disgruntled Magpie could help convince him to join the Demons.
Neeld coached Dawes in his first four years when he was an assistant at Collingwood, and the Demons have also used one of his former premiership teammates - assistant coach Leigh Brown - in pitches to sell the Melbourne vision to Dawes, who is fielding rival offers.
Melbourne has spoken to Dawes several times and expects a decision by the weekend. But the Demons are one of three clubs waiting to hear from the 24-year-old within the same timeframe, including Carlton and Malthouse, who was senior coach of the Pies until last season.
The Western Bulldogs - armed with a bounty of draft picks inside the top 50 courtesy of the Brian Lake trade - are the other interested party, and there was speculation on Wednesday that the Dogs had already struck a deal that would include first and second-round selections.
But the player's management has since hosed down suggestions a deal had been done for Dawes, who still has two years to run on his Collingwood contract but is unhappy that the club signed Quinten Lynch from West Coast, effectively to play in front of him.
Neeld said having a previous relationship with Dawes helped in this type of trade talks, but he was also acutely aware of how close Malthouse was to him. ''We used [our relationship with Dawes] for everything it was worth … Leigh Brown and I went around to see Dawesy straight away.''
Neeld said having someone at the club with a strong relationship with a recruiting target had worked for the Demons last year when it lured another key forward, former Brisbane Lion Mitch Clark.
''Having [assistant coach] Jade Rawlings on our coaching staff, who coached Mitch while he was in Brisbane, that was really important.
''We know what type of player [Dawes] is; we would really like to have him at the footy club. We will wait until the end of the weekend, and he may or may not be.''
Neeld has also had ''preliminary talks'' with Essendon key forward Scott Gumbleton, but said he had received no indication during his 30-minute conversation as to whether the 24-year-old would leave the Bombers, who have offered him a contract.
Neeld said he was confident there was enough talent in the club's crop of young players that the Demons could afford to bring in up to ''four to six experienced players'' if they could get deals done.
Melbourne has already signed Shannon Byrnes from Geelong and is after another key forward to play alongside Clark.
Neeld said the club would take both Dawes and Gumbleton if it could. ''They would be all right, I reckon, Clark, Gumbleton, Dawes, they'd all get a game.''