FORMER Bendigo Pioneers' captain Joe Atley is hoping Essendon's VFL team will be his pathway to a second chance in the AFL.
Atley was last year de-listed following four seasons with Port Adelaide, but the 22-year-old still harbours a strong desire to reignite his career at the top level.
Atley will play this year with Essendon's VFL team in the revamped competition that will feature 22 sides spread across the east coast.
"I had to decide where I wanted to play my footy and what was going to give me the best opportunity to get back into the AFL," Atley said on Thursday.
"With COVID going on it made my decision a bit easier with some clubs training during the week and others not... for the development of my footy I felt I needed two trainings a week and I could do that with Essendon.
"Plus I thought the club was a good fit and will, hopefully, give me the best opportunity to get another crack in the AFL."
Atley captained the Pioneers in 2016, a season in which he also represented Vic Country and made the TAC Team of the Year on the wing.
Later that year he was selected by the Power with pick No. 32 at the 2016 National Draft.
Atley played four AFL games during his time with the Power, debuting with 14 disposals in a win over West Coast in round 16 of 2017.
"I loved the experience at Port Adelaide. I obviously would like to have been on the list longer and played more games, but I made a lot of great friends and I'm really thankful for the time I had there," Atley said.
"Looking back, you realise just how lucky you are to have a job like that on an AFL list... it makes you appreciate how good you've got it.
"Once you step away from that level you realise just how much you want it... I'm pretty hungry to have another crack at it, that's for sure."
Essendon's VFL team is being coached by Leigh Tudor, with the Bombers this week also announcing the signing of Kyle Dunkley.
"They're both good inside players. They're strong at the ball, strong at the man, and have some experience and bigger bodies, which is exactly what we need to help our younger guys," Tudor told essendonfc.com.au
"They'll be great for our program."
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