McGrath signs contract extension, Heppell still waiting

In today’s AFL briefing, your daily wrap of footy news:

  • Essendon defender Andy McGrath has signed a two-year contract extension.
  • COVID-19 strikes again as eight players sidelined throughout the league.

Check in throughout the day for updates.

McGrath signs contract extension with Bombers, Heppell still waiting

Jon Pierik

Andy McGrath, touted as a future Essendon captain, has signed a two-year contract extension, but skipper Dyson Heppell is still seeking clarity.

The Bombers confirmed on Friday that deputy vice captain McGrath, 24, will remain at the club until at least the end of 2024, when he will be a free agent.

Andrew McGrath has signed a two-year contract extension with the Bombers.Credit:AFL Photos

McGrath had delayed talks earlier in the season amid the Bombers’ on-field woes but now insists he is encouraged by the emerging young talent.

“I’ve loved my six years at the club so far and I’m extremely excited to continue my journey with the Essendon Football Club. My love for the playing group is immense and I’m very grateful for the faith the club has had in me,” McGrath said.

“I’m determined to push myself and the entire playing group to realise our capabilities and achieve our ultimate goal. By no means are we a finished product, but the processes we are putting in place now, despite a tough year, will hold us in a strong position moving forward.

“I believe we are building something special and creating an environment to be successful. It’s an exciting time to be an Essendon person.”

The 2016 No.1 draft pick has played 106 games. He has had a strong season, averaging 21.8 disposals, 12.1 kicks and 4.3 marks through the midfield and half-back in 13 matches.

McGrath’s leadership has been important in a campaign that has largely gone wrong. The Bombers returned to the finals last season but sit in 16th spot with only five wins heading into Sunday’s clash against the Gold Coast Suns.

“His natural leadership makes him an exceptional role model for his teammates, which is reflected in his professionalism and respectful nature,” list chief Adrian Dodoro said.

“Andy’s team-first mentality and ability to play multiple roles within the team shows how he will be extremely important to the club over the coming years.”

McGrath could be captain or a co-captain as early as next season, particularly as Heppell, 30, has yet to be offered a new deal. The veteran half-back, an unrestricted free agent, has been among the Bombers’ best in wins over the Swans and Lions over the past fortnight.

He is keen to play on next season but, should he not be wanted by the Bombers, may find a home at North Melbourne. The Kangaroos are open to securing a senior leader to help with their rebuild in the manner Luke Hodge had with the Brisbane Lions.

The Bombers appear likely to be major players in the trade period, and have more than $2 million in salary cap space. Industry sources expect the Bombers to show interest in Jacob Hopper, the Greater Western Sydney Giant who is being pursued by several clubs. The Bombers were once a suitor for Hopper.

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