Former Fremantle Docker Ryan Crowley has become Essendon's first top-up player, as Port Adelaide lodged a submission with the AFL to be able to secure experienced players of their own.
The Bombers continue to search for up to 10 replacement players for those suspended by the Court of Arbitration for Sport as a result of the club's supplements program. List manager Adrian Dodoro has identified 20 names with AFL experience. One such player, Crowley, is now a confirmed starter for the 2016 campaign.
Ryan Crowley a Bomber
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Ryan Crowley a Bomber
Former Fremantle Docker Ryan Crowley signs with the Essendon Bombers. Vision: Bomber TV
Crowley, 31, toured the Bombers' facilities on Tuesday and will begin training with the team on Wednesday.
"Whirlwind is one way to put it," Crowley said.
"It's been amazing. I'm super excited to be down here. It's a great club with heaps of history."
Crowley also has a history of his own - he was suspended for the entire 2015 campaign for taking a banned painkiller on match day.
However, he kept himself fit and, having been delisted by the Dockers, had been training with WAFL side, Swan Districts, over summer.
The former Dockers' best and fairest will provide a hardened midfield body the Bombers needed with Watson, Dyson Heppell, Heath Hocking and Brent Stanton suspended.
"Hopefully, I can bring a lot of experience, a bit of hardness and maybe just a bit of protection for some of the young players," Crowley said.
"We've got some great young on-ballers, Merrett and Parish and these guys, so hopefully I can look after them."
The Bombers have until March 15 to finalise their recruiting.
However, under the AFL's rules, the Power were only allowed to elevate two rookies to replace suspended pair, Paddy Ryder and Angus Monfries.
Power coach Ken Hinkley said that his club had been disadvantaged, for the Power were keen to add an experienced big man to replace Ryder, their frontline ruckman.
"We've made an application to the AFL (about top-up players) based on the fact they say we can't replace both Monfries and Ryder," Hinkley said on South Australian radio.
"How can we be penalised for something we weren't a part of?"
For the dozen Essendon players suspended, and the five at other clubs, they are not allowed to join teammates or train at their club headquarters, possibly until two months before their ban ends. But they can attend matches and work in the media in the meantime.
However, Hinkley said he was still awaiting confirmation over what Ryder and Monfries would be allowed to do.
It shapes as a long year for those suspended, particularly as they are no longer have a regimented program and club support to help them through what can be the monotonous winter months of training.
Former Essendon coach James Hird, himself no longer part of the AFL system, says the players could find life outside the bubble tough going.
"One of the difficulties is, as a player, you become very institutionalised in your lifestyle. You get up at 7am, you go to the club, your train, you come home at 4pm, you do that day after day," Hird said.
"You know that basically you are told what to eat, told what to drink, told where to train, how to sleep, I think that lack of routine will be hard for them to work through."
Hird said the CAS decision extended an already painful period for the players.
"Three years of their career was destroyed - now it's a fourth year," he said.
AFL Players Association chiefs are meeting with the players individually to help them plan their year ahead until they return to training in November.
The players are pushing for a compensation claim against the Bombers, to be settled outside of court.
AFLPA chief Paul Marsh has already addressed this issue with the Bombers, and some players are hopeful their individual cases could begin to be addressed within weeks. This depends on whether the players opt to appeal the CAS decision at a Swiss tribunal.
Watson could have a case of more than $5 million, particularly if he is stripped, or hands back, his 2012 Brownlow Medal won during the club's illegal injecting program.
Bombers chairman Lindsay Tanner says the club has insurance to help deal with a potential pay out.
Former AFL commissioner and ACTU secretary Bill Kelty has been sounded out by one player agent to be a conduit to the AFL Commission.
Players could yet lodge a case against the AFL, for it is their ultimate employer.