Ben Ainsworth celebrates a goal during Gold Coast's clash against Richmond in Opening Round, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

CLUBS are set to come hard for Gold Coast free agent Ben Ainsworth, according to's trade and draft expert Cal Twomey, with Essendon one of those expected to pursue the 26-year-old.

Ainsworth, a Victorian who was taken at No.4 in the 2016 draft, has averaged 16 disposals and a goal a game this season, playing a key role up forward as the Suns push for finals.

As reported in Inside Trading last month, the Suns have offered Ainsworth a four-year deal, but he is yet to recommit.

With Will Hayward re-signing at Sydney this week, clubs remain in the market for a talented half-forward and Ainsworth could fit the bill.

Carlton, Adelaide and Port Adelaide all expressed an interest in Hayward, but Twomey believes it's the Bombers who could come the hardest for Ainsworth.

"Right here right now, Ben Ainsworth is the small forward that Essendon should be targeting," Twomey said on Gettable this week.


"The Bombers need to add to their half-forward stocks. Jade Gresham has been a good addition and Matt Guelfi's form is the best of his career, and he should get a new deal. But they need another small forward who can get up and back and hit the scoreboard.

"Ainsworth has a four-year offer in front of him from the Suns ... but he hasn't been in a rush to sign.

"I think there'll be a rush of clubs now with interest in him, with Will Hayward now off the market.

"The Bombers are among the clubs who have had an interest in him so I think that's one they should pursue pretty strongly."

Ben Ainsworth handballs during Gold Coast's clash against Essendon in round 12, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

After battling injury early in his career, Ainsworth has played 64 of Gold Coast's past 66 matches and become one of its most reliable players.

With Hayward and Hugh McCluggage both re-committing to their clubs this week and Andrew McGrath signing a new deal at the Bombers last month, there are just six restricted free agents still uncontracted for next season – Jarrod Berry, Patrick Dangerfield, Blake Hardwick, Cam Zurhaar and Tim English.

Twomey reported on Gettable this week that Hardwick is close to re-signing at the Hawks.