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Former banned Bomber among two delistings

Ben Howlett has been axed after 124 games with the Bombers - AFL,Contracts,Essendon Bombers,Ben Howlett,Craig Bird
Ben Howlett has been axed after 124 games with the Bombers

MIDFIELDER Ben Howlett's AFL career is in jeopardy, with Essendon delisting the 124-gamer to add to its dramatic off-season list overhaul.

The Bombers announced Howlett and former Swan Craig Bird among their latest cuts, after telling the experienced Heath Hocking in September he would not be offered a new contract.

Jobe Watson, Brent Stanton and James Kelly all retired at season's end, while Essendon enjoyed a boom NAB AFL Trade Period in luring Jake Stringer, Adam Saad and Devon Smith to Tullamarine. 

Howlett joined the Bombers via the NAB AFL Rookie Draft eight years ago and almost instantly became a senior regular before sitting out the 2016 season after the club's supplements saga. 

The 29-year-old was unable to make the same impact this year under coach John Worsfold, playing more matches in the VFL (10) than the AFL (seven). 

"Ben is an unbelievably strong character in terms of his leadership and team values," Worsfold said. 

"He is always focused on wanting to play his role for the team, to the best of his ability. 

"There's no doubt 2016 was tough on the players who had to watch from the sidelines, but the way Ben returned, performed and mentored his younger teammates is a credit to him and his family. 

"The modern game is relentless and to start as a rookie and go onto play more than 100 games is an outstanding effort, and Ben leaves having made a huge contribution to the Essendon Football Club." 

Bird, 28, crossed to Essendon after the 2015 season after playing 137 games for Sydney, including playing in the 2012 premiership.

Eighteen of his 20 games for the Bombers came last year, but he struggled for opportunities in 2017 despite racking up big numbers in the VFL. 

"Craig has been a pleasure to work with during his career at Essendon," Worsfold said.

"His attitude, leadership and commitment to the success of the club has been outstanding.

"Craig played a key role in 2016 through our midfield and helped us through a very tough year."