Collingwood's Dale Thomas. Photo: Mal Fairclough
Carlton has made official contact with Dale Thomas' management, as it emerged that the Collingwood premiership midfielder will not play again this season.
Thomas re-injured his troublesome ankle in his VFL comeback against Sandringham on Saturday and will sit out the rest of the year.
It completes a frustrating year for the 26-year-old, who had opted to wait until the end of the season to initiate contract discussions with the Magpies, having had surgery on ankle ligaments in November and on torn tendons in May when the injury flared after a kick to the ankle against Hawthorn.
It's unclear whether the injury will impact on his market value during contract discussions with Magpies chief executive Gary Pert and recruiting boss Derek Hine.
One argument is that there is uncertainty about the ankle, in terms of how well it will hold up through the rest of his career. However, Thomas' class is unquestionable, and it was only in May 2011 that then St Kilda coach Ross Lyon said he was arguably the best player in the competition at that time. He would be an All-Australian that season. The 157-game veteran has also been durable until this season. He managed 16 matches in his rookie season, but has played at least 20 in each of his next six seasons before this setback.
The Blues are one of a handful of clubs to have made official inquiries to Thomas' management, but there have not been any contract offers. As he is a restricted free agent, the Magpies would still appear to have the upper hand as they can match any offer.
Thomas has a strong link with Blues coach Mick Malthouse and chief executive Greg Swann from their time at the Magpies. Thomas lived with Swann and his family after he was drafted.
The Blues need more run and class through what is an ageing midfield and a fit Thomas would provide that.
Swann said earlier in the season Chris Judd's pay cut would allow the Blues to secure a player of Thomas' value. This would be about $500,000 a season. But Swann acknowledged how difficult it would be to tempt a star player to leave one of the league's financial heavyweights. ''It's hard to get them out of Collingwood, and I think people like to tell that story and you've said that he's close to Mick and maybe he's close to myself, but he's a lot closer to Heath Shaw and Dane Swan and all those guys,'' Swann said at the time.
Of a possible shift, Thomas has said: ''Never say never - I've got to get some money in my pocket.''
Collingwood interim director of football, Rodney Eade, said that, with Thomas' bid to figure in September action over, the focus of player and club was to make sure of a full and lasting recovery.
''It's obviously disappointing for everyone. Dale worked incredibly hard to play again this year and everyone was enthused to see him get close,'' Eade said. ''He felt strong and confident and to see him brought down again is a reminder of how tough the game can be at times. Right now, we know that the rest of 2013 is out. He is going to see several specialists over the next week and in terms of what, if any, impact there will be on his pre-season we will have to wait and see. A clearer picture of what the options are will emerge once he has been examined.''