Adam Cooney's contract talks remain in limbo
THE WESTERN Bulldogs have work to do to keep restricted free agent Adam Cooney at the club, coach Brendan McCartney says.
Cooney's future has been the subject of conjecture all year, with AFL.com.au
reporting in May that his contract talks with the Bulldogs had been put off until later in the season
The longer the 2008 Brownlow medallist has remained unsigned, the more opposition interest in the 27-year-old has grown.
Asked whether he was confident Cooney would stay at the Whitten Oval, McCartney reiterated that the Bulldogs wanted to keep him, but said it was too early to make a definitive call.
"I think there's a bit to work at. Contract negotiations are contract negotiations. When it gets closer to it, then I'll make a comment," McCartney said.
"I'm not entitled to make a comment at the moment to be honest because it's not until people agree to stay and both parties are happy that you can comment on it.
"And so that's not to cause any conjecture or discontent – it will get sorted out."
Cooney entered this year on the back of two injury-plagued seasons when his degenerative right knee limited him to 27 games and made him a shadow of the player he was in 2008.
But post-season treatment in Germany, which involved taking blood from his arm, separating and incubating its growth cells and injecting them into his knee, has helped Cooney train harder and perform better than he has in years.
In 15 games this season, Cooney is averaging nearly 25 possessions – his best return since 2010 – and has kicked 14 goals.
Most encouragingly, Cooney's knee looks set to stand up to the rigours of a full season, with the Bulldog averaging 29.5 possessions a game over the past month.
"He's running well, he's getting the main session done every week," McCartney said.
"He's still managed some of the week (but) he's getting through games and he's running at good speeds."
McCartney said Cooney's value to the Bulldogs remained "very high", citing "his unique capacity to run and use the ball and open the game up".
The Bulldogs coach said Cooney was also a valuable mentor to his younger teammates in his own quiet way.
"He's not as outgoing as some of the other experienced boys, but he's got a confidence about him on the ground and you don't always have to be talking to lead and develop young people around you," McCartney said.
"Sometimes the way you attack the game and play the game rubs off, and that side he does well."
The Bulldog star signed his existing contract in May 2010 for a reported $550,000-$600,000 a season. At that time, Gold Coast had approached Cooney to be part of its inaugural list and the right patella he cracked in the 2008 finals series had not yet degenerated to the extent of 2011-12.
He almost certainly faces a hefty pay cut regardless of whether he recommits to the Bulldogs or seeks a fresh start.
In the event the Bulldogs do not come to terms with Cooney prior to October's free agency period, they can still retain him by matching any opposition offers made then. Nick Bowen is a reporter with AFL Media. Follow him onTwitter @AFL_Nick