ESSENDON'S Cale Hooker is contracted to Essendon until the end of next season, but his future at the Bombers is not guaranteed.

The Virgin Australia AFL All Australian and Essendon best-and-fairest winner, along with several teammates including Michael Hurley, has become extremely frustrated with some workings of his club in the back half of the 2020 season. 

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Some of those issues can be attributed to the three-month hub life forced upon AFL players this year, but significantly, some of it can be apportioned to a failure to instantly connect with coach-in-waiting Ben Rutten. 

Incoming Essendon coach Ben Rutten addresses his players against Melbourne in round 18. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

How Hooker's situation plays out will be intriguing, and if an opposition club felt it needed a versatile key position defender on its books, it would be advised to sound him out. If it hasn't already. 

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Hooker, who has been left out of recent Essendon teams, and Hurley wanted the retiring Tom Bellchambers to be given a farewell game – against Melbourne at Metricon Stadium on Saturday. 

Rutten wasn't having it, which is clearly his right. But it was another source of angst for Hooker. 

Essendon coach John Worsfold shakes hands with retiring ruckman Tom Bellchambers. Picture: AFL Photos

Adam Saad is unhappy, too, and also considering his options. Unlike Hooker, he is out of contract and already has a multitude of lucrative options for 2021 and beyond. 

Joe Daniher and Orazio Fantasia will again seek to leave, as they did last year. The club will probably be better without the distractions they cause. Neither has bothered with any public form of commitment in the past two years, something which could never be levelled at Hurley and Hooker. 

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Massive pressure is also mounting on Adrian Dodoro, the Bombers' list and recruiting manager, and president-in-waiting Paul Brasher has recently been asking a lot of loaded questions to all senior staff as he nears his agreed-to takeover from Lindsay Tanner.

Essendon recruiting manager Adrian Dodoro. Picture: AFL Photos

Season 2020 turned into a mini disaster on-field for Essendon. An encouraging opening to the year spiralled into an embarrassing string of losses as the John Worsfold-Rutten arrangement simply failed to work. 

This was, indeed, the wasted year the club was adamant it wouldn't have. The danger now is that if some matters aren't resolved – with authority – in coming weeks then 2021 might be yet another wasted year before it even starts. 

No Harris? It's just a phase for Fages

Chris Fagan doesn’t get fazed. Well, not often. 

He does, though, raise an eyebrow and his heart pumps a quarter-beat faster whenever someone questions the worth of his Brisbane Lions without All-Australian defender Harris Andrews.

"We're a team, not the Harris Andrews Football Club," he said in the days after Andrews was diagnosed with a serious hamstring strain early this month.

Brisbane's Harris Andrews on the bench with his left hamstring on ice. Picture: Seven Network

In Fagan's four seasons as coach of the Lions, Andrews has missed 10 matches. The Lions have won nine of those games, including Saturday night's against Carlton at the Gabba, the only loss being a narrow one. 

If Port Adelaide defeats Collingwood on Monday night, Brisbane will effectively be in the same position as last year – needing to beat Richmond at the Gabba in a qualifying final.

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It won't have Andrews for that game. At best, he will be available for week three of finals. But the Tigers will likely be minus Tom Lynch. 

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Tigers lose another as Lynch suffers hamstring injury

The Tigers will be down to two men on the bench in the final term with Tom Lynch appearing to be done for the night with a hamstring injury

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Brisbane was very good in 2019 but ultimately failed its test, losing to Richmond in round 23 and the first week of finals, and then to GWS – by just three points – at the Gabba in a semi-final. 

The Lions have been very good again in 2020. Fagan knows, though, it will mean nothing unless they can win a final. And he will be without Andrews for a while longer. Not that that will faze him. 

Will Chris Scott throw a finals curveball?

Whether it's the Lions or the Power as its opponent in the qualifying final, Geelong should do as it did for a large part of Sunday's match against Sydney and play Patrick Dangerfield as a forward. 

Now that they've confirmed their double chance finals status, the Cats can experiment. And as scary as Dangerfield as a midfielder is for opposing coaches, Dangerfield as a forward is actually scarier. 

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Look out everyone, it's Danger time

Paddy Dangerfield is single-handedly willing the Cats over the line with a stunning start to the final term, including three marks and two goals

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He kicked 3.2 against the Swans on Sunday, effectively won for his team a match which nearly slipped its grasp.

Geelong was terribly outplayed by Richmond in round 17. But it didn't try anything out of the ordinary. Maybe that was by design, to keep the joker card for another day. Maybe it will be Gary Ablett anchored as a forward in the first final. That, too, would be of more concern for an opposition coach than Ablett as a midfielder, for coaches loathe having to deal with the unknown. The Cats have left-field options for this year's finals series. 

Twitter: @barrettdamian