Essendon will place a premium on experienced players when adding the 10 top-up players that are set to be added to the club's playing list.
And while the AFL has limited Essendon to picking players who have been delisted over the past two seasons, the club can apply for special permission to recruit players who have been through a draft and are in local leagues.
Players on Essendon's radar include Jonathan Simpkin, a Hawthorn premiership player and ex-Cat and decorated former Geelong star James Kelly, who was pushed into retirement by Cats. Another distinguished ex-Cat Mathew Stokes shapes as a potential option too, though the club has not confirmed the top ups yet.
But the club's priority is understood to be tall backs and a ruckman, given that they have lost their outstanding tall backs Michael Hurley and Cale Hooker and another experienced tall defender in Tayte Pears.
However, triple premiership player Brian Lake is not an option having ruled himself out.
The club is better off for ruckmen, with Matthew Leunberger having been recruited from Brisbane and Shaun McKernan capable of providing support as a forward/ruck.
But the Dons have still indicated to player managers that they have a need for another ruckman, given that Tom Bellchambers is among those under suspension for breaches of the doping code.
Essendon has to have the top-up players signed soon, in order to have them training and prepared for the season.
The Bombers have been contacted by managers seeking to have their recently delisted or retired players picked up among the top additional players, who will replace the 12 players who have been suspended for doping breaches.
Essendon is committed to fielding the most competitive teams possible this year, which is why they will lean towards recruiting experienced players. It appears likely that the Dons will have a mix of experienced players of different ages among the top-ups.
The AFL also allowed the Bombers to list their own VFL listed players and to upgrade all of their five rookies.
The five clubs who also lost players to suspension are allowed to add a rookie list player to their senior list. The AFL has devised rules that enable Essendon to pay the top-ups without breaching their salary cap.
The suspended 34 current and former players have their lawyers considering avenues of appeal, including Australian and Swiss courts.
Jake Niall is a senior sports writer at 'The Age' specialising mainly in coverage of the AFL. He writes a weekly column for 'The Sunday Age' and has been on staff with 'The Age' or 'Sunday Age' since 1995. Jake, who combines original news with commentary, match-based writing, features and analysis, has won a number of awards, including the Alf Brown award for the best performer in AFL media in 2012, the Melbourne Press Club's 2007 Quill award for best sports story in any medium and a Walkley award, shared with colleagues Richard Baker, Nick McKenzie, Caroline Wilson and John Silvester, for best coverage of a major issue (Essendon scandal) in 2013.
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