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AFL club’s shock bid to lure Tigers star

Essendon are reportedly eager to secure the signature of former player Bachar Houli.Houli played 26 AFL games for Essendon before walking out on the club and signing with Richmond in 2011.The 32-year-old defender has won two premierships with the Tigers, and was named in the All-Australian team last year.Houli has been playing on one-year contracts…

Essendon are reportedly eager to secure the signature of former player Bachar Houli.

Houli played 26 AFL games for Essendon before walking out on the club and signing with Richmond in 2011.

The 32-year-old defender has won two premierships with the Tigers, and was named in the All-Australian team last year.

Houli has been playing on one-year contracts with Richmond, and the Bombers are willing to offer him a multi-year deal, according to AFL Media.

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As an unrestricted free agent, Houli would be able to join the Bombers without a trade being facilitated.

“We’d taken Bachar and we believed in him, but he felt he wasn’t getting a fair go at the time,” Essendon list boss Adrian Dodoro said earlier this year.

“Good luck to him, he’s become a fabulous player, another All-Australian … a premiership hero at Richmond and you couldn’t get a nicer person than Bachar.

“We certainly didn’t want him to go, we wanted to keep him. The reason why there was no trade done was because at the time, Richmond offered us a pick that we couldn’t use in the draft.

“So strategically, the best thing for us, if he was going to leave, was to put him in the draft because they had committed to taking him in the pre-season draft.

“It was going to give us from memory the first live pick in the pre-season draft by doing that and we picked up Michael Hibberd.”

In July, Houli pleaded for Australia’s Muslim community to get tested for COVID-19 after revealing his mother was battling the virus in ICU.

After the number coronavirus cases dramatically spiked in Victoria, Houli chose not to join his teammates in the Queensland hub, opting instead to care for his family.

In a heartfelt video uploaded to Instagram, Houli announced his mother was undergoing “heavy treatment” after contracting COVID-19, urging fellow Victorians to “go get tested” if symptoms arise.

Houli is also close with Bombers player Adam Saad, and the pair competed alongside one another during February’s State of Origin clash.

“I call Bachar my brother, I’ve looked up to him since he started. We speak once or twice a week and we’re very close,” Saad said in February.

On Tuesday morning, Essendon great Tim Watson suggested out-of-contract Saad has “one foot out the door” following the club’s underwhelming season, in which they lost nine of their last 10 matches.

Although the 26-year-old Saad reportedly has a four-year deal with the Bombers in the works, Watson told SEN Breakfast he is also eyeing other options.

“I’m hearing that Adam Saad, who is probably close to my favourite Essendon player, has one foot out the door,” Watson said.

“I’m hearing he’s got one foot out the door.

“I hope I’m wrong because he is one of my favourite players.”

Seven News reporter Tom Browne suggested Carlton had already conducted talks with Saad on two occasions.

To make matters worse for the Bombers, three clubs are looking to steal star midfielder Zach Merrett, according to Fox Sports reporter Tom Morris.

Merrett is contracted to the Bombers until the end of 2021, and it would therefore be difficult for rival clubs to make a play for the 24-year-old until he’s eligible for free agency.

“I don’t think Essendon’s going to trade him, but that hasn’t stopped clubs hovering. Carlton, Port Adelaide and Hawthorn I understand have some level of interest in Zach Merrett,” Morris told Fox Footy’s On The Couch.

“Although it seems impossible they could get a trade done … the fact these clubs are hovering and are at least asking the question just tells us there’s a fair bit of unrest at Essendon at the moment.

“They absolutely reckon they’re an outside chance, otherwise they wouldn’t be in the game at all. And if it doesn’t happen in the next month, it might happen in 12 months’ time when he comes out of contract.

“This is ‘pre agency’ at its absolute best. This is why players have more power than ever before.”


Veteran AFL reporter Caroline Wilson has called Ben Brown’s decision to turn down a $2.25 million deal with North Melbourne “one of the worst decisions” made in the 2020 season.

The Kangaroos tabled Brown a three-year deal worth approximately $750,000 per season at the start of the year, but he wanted four years so didn’t sign.

Then COVID-19 hit, North Melbourne fell off a cliff to finish 17th and a knee injury ended Brown’s season early.

North Melbourne then told the 27-year-old he wasn’t part of the club’s plans next year.

“All managers make mistakes and have bad timing in the decisions they make,” Wilson told Nine’s Footy Classified on Monday.

“But it’s Adam Ramanauskas I wold be staggered about if I was ben Brown if it was his advice that told him to reject the $750,000 per year, or minimum $700,000 per year, three-year deal from the Kangaroos in March this year.

“One of the worst decisions this year a manager has made … his manager should have convinced him to take it.”

Brown was coming off three straight seasons kicking at least 60 goals, but managed just eight majors from nine games this year.

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Port Adelaide great Kane Cornes defended the 200cm forward’s decision, arguing he could be searching for a new club.

“He was 26-years-old at the time and had kicked 60 goals for the three previous seasons before and it was probably his last big contract,” Cornes said.

“I don’t begrudge him for that and maybe he wasn’t fully confident in the way North Melbourne were going – new coach coming in, record was poor.

“Maybe he wanted to do a Tom Lynch and explore the options to play in a premiership.

“I would much rather play for $200,000 less and be in a successful side than sign at North for three years at $750,000 and be 17th which they’re going to be for the next three or four years.”

— with James Matthey

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