Max Holmes optimistic he will be available for the grand final; Magpies delete Brown brothers; Essendon Bombers Re-Draws Dyson Heppell; James Hird is “very, very excited” to return

“It is a reflection of the combined efforts of everyone involved in the football program and the wider club this season and a confirmation of their hard work and perseverance.

“We will continue to strive to be better every day throughout the pre-season and into 2023.”

Magpies coach Craig McRae.

Magpies coach Craig McRae.Credit:Getty Images

AFLCA CEO Alistair Nicholson congratulated McRae on his first season in the top position.

“What Craig has accomplished in his first year as Collingwood’s senior coach is remarkable,” said Nicholson.

“While there will be some disappointment after narrowly missing out on a grand final, it is the faith and will to win that he has instilled in his squad in such a short time to see them climb the ladder again this season, exciting to watch.”

Hird ‘very, very much like’ to become Essendon coach

Jon Pierik

James Hird is “very, very excited” to become Essendon’s next coach, according to club great Tim Watson, but he still faces a major challenge to win the role in front of a strong field.

Watson said on Tuesday that Hird’s interest in reclaiming a role he left in 2015 is still burning brightly as the club continues its hunt for a replacement for Ben Rutten.

James Hird, in conversation with Giants captain Stephen Coniglio, was back in the AFL fold this season.

James Hird, in conversation with Giants captain Stephen Coniglio, was back in the AFL fold this season.Credit:AFL Photos

Hird has interviewed for the role, as well as former Gold Coast Suns assistant Dean Solomon, St Kilda assistant Brendon Lade and current Bombers assistant Daniel Giansiracusa. Adem Yze has also impressed the coaching subcommittee, led by Carlton premiership coach Robert Walls and four-time Hawthorn premiership player Jordan Lewis.

Hird would be a controversial choice if the Bombers were chubby for him, having been involved in the supplements scandal for the past decade, but he is welcome back in the AFL fold, having served as assistant to caretaker coach Mark McVeigh this season from Giants.

“I haven’t spoken to anyone who’s in this. But what I do know is that James Hird really, really wants to be the coach of Essendon Football Club, I’m sure,” Watson told SEN .

“I support him as he throws his hat in the ring and goes as hard as he wants. There are others who have backed off, we learned this weekend that [Don] Pyke won’t be part of it either.

“I’m still hearing from people on the fringe of it all that Brad Scott might still be interested in going for the job, but I think that would be at the pointed end of interviews.”

Scott, as reported by The agestill considering whether to join the Essendon hunt, but only at the pointy end of the process, as he is a well-known commodity, having coached North Melbourne for nearly a decade and being an assistant to Collingwood three times.

However, Scott now has a prominent role at AFL House as football operations manager, and could take a higher leap if Andrew Dillon, the league’s chief of football operations, replaces the outgoing league chief of staff, Gillon McLachlan.

Bombers president David Barham has said he would like the new coach to be appointed before the end of the month.

Brown brothers removed as part of Magpie moves

Jon Pierik

Collingwood may have been just one point away from the grand final, but the Magpies are already in their bid to get better by snatching four players, including the sons of former skipper Gavin Brown.

The Magpies confirmed on Tuesday that Callum Brown, Tyler Brown, Isaac Chugg and Liam McMahon would not be getting new contracts as the Magpies prepare to be active during the trading period.

Ruckman Brodie Grundy may have also played his last game for the club, as the Magpies are on the hunt for free agent Dan McStay, Bobby Hill, who has said he wants to be traded from the Giants to the Magpies, Adelaide’s Billy Frampton and Gold Coast’s Braden Fiorini.

Callum Brown is one of four players dropped by the Magpies, including his brother Tyler.

Callum Brown is one of four players dropped by the Magpies, including his brother Tyler. Credit:Getty Images

Often used as a senior half-striker, Callum Brown made 70 appearances for the Magpies after being taken as father-son with pick No. 35 in the 2016 national draft. Tyler, a great midfielder, had 27 after winning. dealing with injuries and illnesses. He was taken as father-son with choice No. 50 in the 2017 National Draft.

Graham Wright, Magpies’ general manager of football, said the club had made “difficult” decisions.

“For Isaac and Liam, they are two players who have always done the teamwork, and we thank them for their dedication to our club,” he said.

“Callum and Tyler – sons of premiership player Gavin Brown – we couldn’t be more proud of their professionalism and the positive influence they have had on their peers during their time at the club. Callum has been with the club for six years and has played in 70 games , while Tyler has played 27 games with Collingwood for five years.

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“On behalf of everyone at the club, we wish every player the very best for their future and we hope they continue to develop their games and work towards reaching their football potential.

“As the people of Collingwood, we will continue to support every player on and off the pitch.”

The Brown brothers were hoping for new contracts late in the season but are now likely to look elsewhere to relaunch their AFL careers.

The speedy Chugg, who was taken off the list and re-elected last year, managed to win two senior matches, while McMahon, a key forward who was selected as the second round in 2020, failed to make a senior appearance.

Grundy, who has met with Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin and captain Max Gawn, is determined to be a Demon, but they will likely have to pay around $300,000 of his salary per season as part of the deal.

Generation Game: Father-son conscripts Callum Brown and Josh Daicos with their fathers and Magpie legends Peter Daicos and Gavin Brown in 2016.

Generation Game: Father-son conscripts Callum Brown and Josh Daicos with their fathers and Magpie legends Peter Daicos and Gavin Brown in 2016.Credit:Scott Barbour

Facing a salary cap, the Magpies are likely to re-sign Jordan De Goey, with coach Craig McRae calling for a deal. They hope to keep forward Ollie Henry, who lost his spot late in the season, and are considering leaving. Henry’s first two-year contract expires. He was taken with pick No. 17 in the 2020 national draft and has scored 28 goals in 25 matches.

The Suns are trying to alleviate their salary cap issues, with Fiorini, a former No. 20 draft pick, a player they’re willing to release. He has a contract until the end of 2023.

Cats rely on replacement when Holmes is unavailable

Peter Ryan

Geelong is working on various ideas as to who could replace up-and-coming wingman Max Holmes if he fails to prove his fitness for Saturday’s grand final against Sydney.

The 20-year-old will have every chance to prove his fitness after being substituted out of the preliminary final with what was initially thought to be a hamstring injury but may have been neuron pain.

Max Holmes remains optimistic he will play while the Cats make plans

Max Holmes remains optimistic he will play while the Cats make plans Credit:Getty

He ran in circles and did some more running under the eye of fitness staff on Monday. The Cats described its scan results as “encouraging” and sources said no tear was detected.

However, tentative final emergencies Sam Menegola and Brandan Parfitt and medical sub Mark O’Connor are all considered opportunities to replace Holmes if he is declared unavailable.

Parfitt has played 16 games this season but has not made it to the final, while Menegola, who can play as a wingman, is fresh after playing seven of the last nine games of the season before being dropped from the final. O’Connor is the most versatile of the trio, able to defend or trap opponents in midfield.

Assistant coach Shaun Grigg, who has been instrumental in reshaping the midfield for the Cats this season, said the coaches went through a lot of ‘what if’ scenarios before the game.

“We have some players that we would love to come play with, we have some really good players who unfortunately missed the final,” said Grigg.

“As coaches we will plan [for] plan A, plan B and plan C as you would expect, but right now it’s just too early to say.”

Grigg said Holmes was optimistic he would be available and return to training on Wednesday, but the decision would be in the hands of the medical staff rather than the coaches.

“It is day to day at the moment. Max is optimistic, but we just don’t know yet. [There is] more training tomorrow, so we’ll give him a chance to prove himself,” Grigg said.

“It will be in the hands of our medical team and fitness staff. We trusted those guys all year.”

Meanwhile, Shaun Higgins announced his retirement on Tuesday after a career spanning 260 games with the Western Bulldogs, North Melbourne and Geelong.

Higgins, 34, played 23 games at Geelong after arriving in 2020. He had played 129 games at Whitten Oval and 108 at Arden Street.

The 30-year-old said in a statement that he was excited to see his career as a one-club player.

“It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to be captain of the club I supported,” he said. “The Essendon Football Club is my second home, and it is incredibly special to see my playing career here as a player for one club.

“Although this year has been tough, I have real confidence in our squad and I am determined to continue to support the growth of this program. I look forward to working with our new coach and building a great pre-season together as we build towards 2023.”

List manager Adrian Dodoro said Heppell was an “instrumental figure” at Essendon.

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“It is well known how selfless and caring Dyson is as a person, and he has always done what he thinks is best for the team.

“Dyson’s re-promise to the club shows how committed he is to take this club forward into 2023, and he remains incredibly important to our football program, both on and off the pitch.”

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