ESSENDON is exploring the prospect of bringing Bachar Houli back to the Bombers.
The dual Richmond premiership defender, who sensationally walked out on Essendon in 2010, has received inquiries about a return more than a decade later.
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AFL.com.au understands the Bombers are open to offering Houli greater career security with the 32-year-old playing on one-year deals for the past two seasons at Punt Road.
While he is settled and content at Richmond, Houli doesn't have a contract in place for next season at the Tigers.
Houli shares a close relationship with Bomber Adam Saad, a player Essendon is trying to retain on a four-year deal amid keen interest from clubs including Carlton and North Melbourne.
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"I call Bachar my brother, I've looked up to him since he started. We speak once or twice a week and we're very close," Saad said before playing with Houli for Victoria in February.
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Houli won the first of his two AFL flags under Tigers defensive coach Ben Rutten in 2017 before Rutten crossed to Essendon in 2019. He has since been appointed senior coach for 2021.
The dashing half-back also spent time with key Bombers assistant Blake Caracella when he was at the Tigers from 2016-2019.
Another link at Essendon comes via Houli's former agent Dan Richardson who first facilitated his move from the Bombers to the Tigers.
Richardson left the player management scene to assume the role as Tigers head of football in March 2013 – essentially working as Houli's boss – before he departed for the same job at the Bombers ahead of 2018.
Ironically, Houli is now managed by TLA's Nigel Carmody who also looks after Bombers key forward Joe Daniher who is weighing up rival interest.
Houli quit the Bombers in October 2010 after 26 games in four seasons – the last three under Matthew Knights – and couldn't be swayed to re-commit ahead of James Hird's first year at the club in 2011.
After the Bombers rejected Richmond's offer at the trade table, Houli joined the Tigers via the pre-season draft and has become one of the club's most reliable players.
The Bombers' move for Houli would also help fill the void left by half-back Conor McKenna who informed the club he would retire from the AFL earlier this month.
Houli was left frustrated last year after being forced to wait until late-August to be first offered a contract extension for 2020 despite enjoying a career-best season.
The 2019 All-Australian has played the last five games this season after staying in Victoria to be with his wife and newborn baby in July as his teammates headed to their Queensland quarantine hub.
Houli has now played 190 games in 10 seasons in yellow and black and will be a key figure in the Tigers' premiership defence this October.
Now into his 14th AFL season, Houli works with Richmond on the 'Bachar Houli Foundation' which aims to build young leaders within the Muslim community.
Essendon list manager Adrian Dodoro, who has been with the Bombers for 22 years, said losing Houli was "one of the bigger disappointments in my career" when he exited the club.
"We'd taken Bachar and we believed in him, but he felt he wasn't getting a fair go at the time," Dodoro told the club's website in May this year.
"Good luck to him, he's become a fabulous player, another All-Australian… a premiership hero at Richmond and you couldn't get a nicer person than Bachar.
"We certainly didn't want him to go, we wanted to keep him. The reason why there was no trade done was because at the time, Richmond offered us a pick that we couldn't use in the draft.
"So strategically, the best thing for us, if he was going to leave, was to put him in the draft because they had committed to taking him in the pre-season draft.
"It was going to give us from memory the first live pick in the pre-season draft by doing that and we picked up Michael Hibberd (now at Melbourne)."
Given Houli's length of tenure at the Tigers, he is an unrestricted free agent and would be free to join the Bombers, or any rival club, without a trade being facilitated.