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Top-up time as Crowley joins the Bombers

Crowley joins the Bombers Former Fremantle tagger talks about joining Essendon as a top-up player
Ryan Crowley has joined the Bombers. Picture: Essendonfc.com.au - ${keywords}
Ryan Crowley has joined the Bombers. Picture: Essendonfc.com.au
Hopefully I can bring a lot of experience, a bit of hardness and maybe just a bit of protection for some of the young players
Ryan Crowley

FORMER Fremantle tagger Ryan Crowley has been locked in as Essendon's first top-up player.

The ex-Docker, delisted at the end of last season after 188 games, toured the Bombers' facilities on Tuesday and has signed a temporary contract to play in red and black for the 2016 campaign.

The 31-year-old is wasting no time getting down to business, with the Bombers announcing Crowley will start training on Wednesday.

"Whirlwind is one way to put it," Crowley told the club's website.

"It's been amazing. I'm super excited to be down here. It's a great club with heaps of history.

"I can't wait to get down there and train with the boys."

Crowley is the first of up to 10 players Essendon can recruit under AFL rules revealed in the wake of last Tuesday's Court of Arbitration for Sport verdict banning a dozen Bombers for doping offences.

Signing with the Bombers gives Crowley a shot at finishing his career on a better note after he spent his final season at Freo on the sidelines serving a 12-month suspension for taking a prohibited painkiller in July 2014.

Crowley trained diligently during his ban and was fit and available when his suspension ended before the Dockers' preliminary final against Hawthorn last September, however he wasn't selected.

He was delisted in October and signed a two-year deal to play for WAFL club Swan Districts, but the dogged run-with midfielder has jumped at the chance to join Essendon, where he fulfills part of the Bombers' desire to recruit experienced 'top-up' players to surround their youngsters.

Many of the Bombers' biggest names – including skipper Jobe Watson, Dyson Heppell, reigning club champion Cale Hooker and gun defender Michael Hurley – were among the players banned until November by CAS.

"I jumped at the opportunity," Crowley said.

"I didn't hide the fact that I really wanted to continue my AFL career at the end of last season. It didn't happen with Fremantle but I couldn't be more excited to be down at Essendon.

"Hopefully I can bring a lot of experience, a bit of hardness and maybe just a bit of protection for some of the young players.

"We've got some great young on-ballers, (Zach) Merrett and (Darcy) Parish and these guys, so hopefully I can look after them."

The battled-hardened veteran, who was one of Freo's best performers in the 2013 Grand Final when he shut down Hawks star Sam Mitchell, said his year away from the game could have an unexpected benefit leading into his new life as a Bomber. 

"It's amazing how good your body can feel," Crowley said. "I wouldn't recommend having a year off, but it's amazing how good my body can feel and I'm just looking forward to getting out there."

Crowley, who was Freo's 2012 best and fairest winner, could face his former teammates for the first time in round 11 when the Bombers fly west to Domain Stadium.

Essendon has until March 15 to sign the remaining top-up players, but the Dons have already drawn up a list of about 20 players and are expected to announce more signings soon.