Fletcher to play on, as Hird firms - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Fletcher to play on, as Hird firms

By Sam Lienert 22/09/2010 05:27:14 PM Comments (0)

If James Hird coaches Essendon next season, he will have a very familiar face in the playing ranks, after defender Dustin Fletcher confirmed he will play on.

Fletcher, who at 35 is the AFL's oldest player, has signed a new contract for 2011.

The 328-game dual premiership player made his debut in 1993, just one season after 37-year-old Hird.

He trails only 1984-85 premiership ruckman Simon Madden (378 games) on the Bombers' all-time list of games played.

Hird, Essendon's 2000 premiership skipper, is firming as favourite to take over the coaching reins from the sacked Matthew Knights.

While the Bombers have refused to confirm Hird is in the frame, betting agency Sportingbet Australia on Wednesday suspended its market on the club's next coach for the second time in 10 days.

Sportingbet's chief executive Michael Sullivan said the constant flow of money for Hird, even after he was reduced to an even money favourite, indicated punters knew something they didn't.

Meanwhile, Essendon football manager Paul Hamilton said Fletcher was not ruling out going on beyond next season.

"It's wonderful to see Dustin commit to another season at the club," Hamilton said.

"He has been a wonderful player over a long period of time and also provides us with some leadership in the defensive group.

"We are really happy that he has agreed on terms to go on for another 12 months and who knows after that - with Dustin we have come to learn that you don't put any limits on him."

The Bombers also re-signed young midfielder Ben Howlett, who was promoted from the rookie list to play 15 games this season, on a two-year deal.

"We are really excited because he has had a really good, solid year," Hamilton said.

"He has had to work hard for the opportunity to play AFL football but he has grabbed that and we believe he will be a good player for the years to come."

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