LUKE Dahlhaus appears one step closer to a move to Geelong after informing the Western Bulldogs of his intentions to exercise his free agency option on Tuesday.
The 2016 premiership player was last week set to head on leave while weighing up the Bulldogs' final offer or a long-term deal to move to the Cats, understood to be four years.
He has since told the Bulldogs' hierarchy he will leave the club that drafted him in the 2011 NAB AFL Rookie Draft.
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As an unrestricted free agent, the 26-year-old is free to walk to his club of choice without the Bulldogs having the opportunity to match a rival offer.
Dahlhaus had been in a stand-off with the Bulldogs, believed to be centred around the length of tenure, for much of the season.
In a statement released on Tuesday night, the club said it regretted Dahlhaus' decision and thanked him for his service.
"While the club is obviously disappointed an agreement could not be reached, the club maintains an obligation to be balanced in its approach across its entire playing group when making its list management decisions," the statement read.
"The club wishes to thank Luke for his eight years of wonderful service, including 154 games and his contribution to the club's 2016 premiership. We wish Luke well for the remainder of his career."
Dahlhaus, from the Geelong suburb of Leopold, played for the Geelong Falcons in the TAC Cup before given his start at Whitten Oval.
The midfielder was limited to 17 games this season, his year cut short by an ankle injury suffered in round 18.
Averaging 21.5 disposals per match, it fell short of his feats from 2015-2017 when he played 66 of a possible 71 matches at more than 25 disposals a game.
While the Dogs will be hopeful of receiving an end-of-first-round compensation pick for losing Dahlhaus, it could fall in the second round.
It looms as a hectic off-season for the Bulldogs' list management team.
Mitch Wallis and Jordan Roughead are weighing up outside interest, while Tom Liberatore is expected to turn his back on free agency.
Billy Gowers will be promoted to the senior list after he signed a two-year extension, with Lin Jong, Tom Campbell, Mitch Honeychurch and Brad Lynch among other players out of contract.