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Challenging times at Freo: Bell on the Hills, turmoil, Ross and SOS

Bradley Hill has two years remaining on his contract with the Dockers - AFL,Fremantle Dockers,Bradley Hill,Peter Bell,Tag-Trade,Trade,Tag-Exclusive
Bradley Hill has two years remaining on his contract with the Dockers

FREMANTLE football boss Peter Bell is confident Bradley Hill will remain a Docker for years to come as the club prepares for upcoming "challenges" in the player movement period.

They face the prospect of losing uncontracted midfielder Ed Langdon to a Victorian club – the Demons are leading the race – while Hill's manager Colin Young confirmed to AFL.com.au there was widespread interest in his client.

Hill's brother and fellow Freo star Stephen is a free agent at season's end and being heavily courted, and out-of-contract defender Connor Blakely's negotiations are moving slowly.

Peter Bell says the Dockers foresee a long-term future with Bradley Hill. Picture: AFL Photos

Veteran pair Aaron Sandilands and Hayden Ballantyne are retirement-bound, after Harley Bennell already parted ways with Fremantle.

"It's a pretty clear one, from our perspective. Brad's got two years on his contract," Bell told AFL.com.au on Friday.

"He's got two years on his contract and we see him as being a Fremantle player for many, many years.

"At the start of this year, we had 21 players who were out of contract. We've re-signed 10 of those. Naturally there will be some retirements and delistings as well.

"We've got the challenge of re-signing some other players … but we're really confident we'll be able to keep the players we want to keep – and that's what we're focused on at the moment."

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There is also speculation about coach Ross Lyon's future, with highly-rated Collingwood assistant and ex-Docker Justin Longmuir's name consistently raised as an option if the position became available.

With all of this going on, AFL.com.au understands Bell was set to offer Adelaide's analytics guru and rising star in list management, Binuk Kodituwakku, the Dockers' list manager job.

They appointed Mark Micallef in that role from Gold Coast's recruiting team almost eight months ago, and it's believed Micallef found out about Fremantle's intentions on Thursday.

However, the Crows convinced Kodituwakku to stay despite the advanced stage of negotiations, with Adelaide's more stable environment believed to have played a role in his decision.

Carlton list boss Stephen Silvagni has also been linked to the Dockers, in part because of his relationship with Lyon.

Bell did not address the Kodituwakku or Silvagni situations, saying only that conversations with industry peers were standard practice.

"It's quite normal for us and every other club to have discussions with people from within the industry all the time, and they're absolutely ongoing at every club," Bell said.

"I speak with Mark (Micallef) regularly, I've spoken with him today, and he very much is getting about doing his job to the best of his ability, with my support and Steve's (Rosich, Dockers CEO) support.

"Mark is continuing in the role, absolutely."

 

There is a belief in the AFL industry that tension exists between Rosich and Fremantle great Bell, who became the club's general manager of football operations in September last year.

But Bell strongly refuted those claims, and added that any suggestion Fremantle was in turmoil was not only exaggerated but "totally incorrect".

"Steve's been a wonderful supporter of myself and we've got a really good relationship," Bell said.

"As any CEO and GM of footy, or general manager broadly, we have numerous daily discussions and we are 100 per cent focused on the task at hand, which is making sure we're doing the very best by the Fremantle footy club."

Fremantle's high performance manager Jason Weber is another man facing heightened scrutiny because of the club's injury-marred campaign.

The Dockers seemed headed for finals with seven wins through their first 12 matches this year, but losses to Melbourne, Carlton, West Coast and Hawthorn have seen them drop to 13th.