Bendigo Bank Bombers will look to secure up to three high-profile recruits out of the
AFL ahead of the 2007 VFL season. However, no signings are expected to be made until after the AFL pre-season and rookie drafts on December 12. The Bombers have lost three of their big-name players of this year in vice-captain Jordan Doering, who has signed as an assistant coach with Strathmore in the Essendon District Football League, Justin Blumfield, who has retired, and ruckman-forward Callan Beasy, now coaching Swan Hill. All three have spent time on AFL lists, with Blumfield a member of Essendon's 2000 premiership side. "What generally happens is we speak to a lot of players, but a lot of them won't commit until after the national, rookie and pre-season
drafts, which is fair enough," Bombers coach Matthew Knights said yesterday. "So it probably won't be until some time around the middle of December that we will have our new marquee recruits locked away. "We're definitely in the market for one, two, possibly three (marquee players). "We would be predominantly going for someone with AFL experience who has a mature, hardened body and can slot straight in, play good footy and be part of our leadership group." Knights said he had already spoken with delisted Essendon rookie Tim O'Keefe about the prospect of returning to the Bombers next year. Essendon selected O'Keefe from the Bombers in last year's rookie
draft, but the 20-year-old had a season marred by a shoulder injury, restricting him to just seven games in the VFL. However, like many players in his position, O'Keefe won't decide on his future until after the rookie draft. "I've had a discussion with Tim
already and he is very positive about playing with the Bendigo Bombers next year," Knights said. "Continuity of football has probably been the main reason why he has been delisted, not due to his form as such. "He likes the Bendigo Bombers program, we have a good player-coach relationship, so he's very bubbly about playing with the Bendigo Bombers next year." Another player in the same position as O'Keefe is delisted Carlton defender Luke Livingston, who is a former Bendigo Pioneer. Livingston remains hopeful he will be given a second chance at an AFL career at the pre-season draft after playing 46 games for the Blues, but if he is unsuccessful in being selected, he hasn't ruled out playing in the VFL next year."Luke is in a scenario
where he is probably not going to make a decision until after the pre-season draft, so
we will cross that bridge when we get to it," Knights said.
"Luke is probably in that pool of 20-30 players who are mature, but still only 22, 23, 24 or 25 and would be very handy for a VFL club. "Meanwhile, a number of key players for the Bombers this year have been delisted by Essendon. Ben Jolley and Matthew Firman join O'Keefe as rookies to have been delisted by the Dons. Jolley was a standout for the Bombers this season, winning the club's best and fairest in his second year in the VFL. Firman, a classy left-footer, showed plenty of dash for the Bombers this season.
Other players who have been regulars for the Bombers but have now been delisted are ruckman Tristan Cartledge and the versatile Joel Reynolds. Knights, who is also the Essendon development coach, will leave for Japan on Saturday for a 10-day personal development trip with seven of the Dons' younger players. Making the trip to Japan will be Jobe Watson, Angus Monfries, Nathan Lovett-Murray, Jason Winderlich, Adam Ramanauskas, Jay Nash and Ricky Dyson.