DASHING defender Bailey Dale plans to let his football do the talking when the AFL season begins next week, content to let contract negotiations with the Western Bulldogs play out in the background.
The Bulldogs face a fight to keep their talented list together after last year's Grand Final appearance, with Dale and fellow Therabody AFL All-Australians Jack Macrae and Caleb Daniel among a host of stars out of contract at the end of 2022.
Bailey Smith, Josh Dunkley, Tim English, Alex Keath and Jason Johannisen are also nearing the end of their existing deals.
Dale's bargaining power is at an all-time high after his switch to defence resulted in a breakout season last year.
But the 25-year-old free agent insists he is in no hurry to sign a new deal and will leave negotiations to his manager for the time being.
"I just want to start the year really well," Dale said. "I've been a bit inconsistent over my career and it's a great opportunity to try back up a really good year.
"I'm in no rush, it's going to take care of itself eventually and when it does I'll be happy."
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Dale spent his first six years with the Bulldogs as a forward and wingman before a snap decision by the coaching staff to send him to half-back on the eve of last season.
The move paid huge dividends as Dale rapidly became one of the competition's most damaging rebound players.
But he concedes the defensive side of his game is still an area for improvement as the Dogs look to cover the loss of retired 2016 premiership skipper Easton Wood.
"It's that one-on-one side of the game and really trying to develop that aerial side to be able to come across and help my teammates," Dale said.
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"There's just a few little things that I've been trying to work on over the pre-season and hopefully they can come out this year."
The Bulldogs tackle Grand Final foes Melbourne in Wednesday night's season opener at the MCG.