Date: November 05 2012
FIRST it was Scott Pendlebury. Then it was Travis Cloke. Now, according to Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley, it will be Dale Thomas.
As the football world peers ahead to season 2013, Buckley says his club is likely to endure another year of contractual speculation, this time surrounding Thomas, the dynamic midfielder who is off contract at the end of next season and will be a restricted free agent.
Thomas and his manager Paul Connors rejected more money from Greater Western Sydney to remain with the Magpies when they agreed to a two-year contract extension last season, and can again expect strong interest from several suitors.
"We have got Dale Thomas who has got another 12 months of a contract and then he becomes a restricted free agent," Buckley said on Monday.
"There is going to be one story in the next 12 months which becomes bigger than others because it becomes the free-agent story of the year. Collingwood has probably had that two out of three years. 'Pendles' was big in the first year of GWS and Clokey was big and Collingwood is a big club. We know we are going to get a lot of speculation about it."
Thomas's management and the Magpies have yet to open discussions.
The contractual dispute between Cloke, who was also a restricted free agent, and the Magpies was one of the major talking points of last season.
Buckley said the manner in which it was played out publicly had an adverse impact on Cloke, although the power forward eventually secured his stated aim of a five-year deal.
"Clokey himself I think was definitely affected by it in retrospect because he is such a team-orientated player, he loves being loved by the boys, he loves going out doing his job for the boys," Buckley said on SEN.
"That was unfortunate to continue so long. The club managed it as best we could by taking it [contract talks] off the table [midway through the season]. Ultimately the result was good for both parties."
Hawthorn match-winner Lance Franklin will be another high-profile free agent should he not sign a new contract by the end of next season.
The Magpies were active during the free-agency and trade periods. One player they no longer have is forward Chris Dawes, who was unable to have an impact when asked to relieve Darren Jolly in the ruck last season.
Buckley said he had made it clear to Dawes at an end-of-season debrief that he would struggle to secure a regular senior game. Dawes was traded to Melbourne, with the Magpies securing Quinten Lynch from West Coast as part of national recruiting manager Derek Hine's like-for-like trading philosophy.
"We need someone that can play up to 30, 40 per cent in the ruck at times. We believe Quinten Lynch has got the strong body and the history of being able to do that behind Nic Naitanui and Coxy (Dean Cox) probably," Buckley said.
"He wasn't asked to play as much in the ruck but we feel he is going to be very good in those contests and around the ground."
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