RIVAL clubs are showing growing interest in Adam Cooney asthe restricted free agent and the Western Bulldogs remain some way offfinalising a new deal. 

AFL.com.au revealed in May that the Bulldogs and Cooney had deferredserious contract negotiations until later in the year despite the 27-year-old'simpressive start to the season. 

Discussions between the Bulldogs and Cooney remain ongoing andamicable, but the parties are not close to signing a new contract. 

AFL.com.au understands Cooney remains more likely to stay atthe Whitten Oval than leave, but opposition interest in the 2008 Brownlowmedallist continues to grow the longer he remains fit and in form. 

"Cooney is clearly one of the biggest talents in thisyear's free agency pool and is one free agent you sense could leave, but anyclub looking at him has to be prepared to take a risk," one industryinsider told AFL.com.au. 

Cooney would have attracted huge offers several years ago,but his degenerative right knee will be a massive consideration for clubsconsidering making a play for him ahead of October's free agency period. 

He entered this year on the back of two injury-plaguedseasons when his knee limited him to 27 games and made him a shadow of theplayer he was in 2008. 

But post-season treatment in Germany, which involved takingblood from his arm, separating and incubating its growth cells and injectingthem into his knee, has helped Cooney train harder and perform better than hehas in years. 

In 12 games this season, Cooney is averaging more than 23possessions – his best return since 2010 – and has kicked 13 goals in a newrole across half-back. 

Cooney missed rounds nine and 10 with a hamstring injury, buthas made a strong return in the past four rounds, racking up 26 possessionslast Saturday in the Bulldogs' nail-biting win over Greater Western Sydney atCanberra's StarTrack Oval. 

The Bulldog star signed his existing contract in May 2010for a reported $550,000-$600,000 a season. At that time, Gold Coast hadapproached Cooney to be part of its inaugural list and the right patella hecracked in the 2008 finals series had not yet degenerated to the extent of2011-12. 

Cooney almost certainly faces a hefty pay cut regardless of whetherhe recommits to the Bulldogs or seeks a fresh start. 

The Bulldogs find themselves in a similar position to thatSt Kilda faced with one of last year's big-name restricted free agents, BrendonGoddard. 

St Kilda was compensated with pick No. 13 in last year'snational draft for losing Goddard, a selection it included in its trade forGold Coast ruckman Tom Hickey. 

Like St Kilda, the Bulldogs are in a rebuilding phase andwill be mindful that under last year's free agency compensation model they willlikely receive a second-round pick should Cooney leave. 

Based on their current ladder position of 15th, the Bulldogscould expect a pick in the early-mid 20s. 

In the event the Bulldogs do not come to terms with Cooneyprior to October's free agency period, they can still retain him by matchingany opposition offers made then. 

Nick Bowen is a reporter with AFL Media. Follow him onTwitter @AFL_Nick