ST KILDA ruckman Paddy Ryder might run out of time to play again this season, but the veteran wants to play on in 2023.
The 34-year-old strained his calf in last Friday night’s 28-point loss to the Western Bulldogs and could miss the rest of the home and away season.
Ryder is out of contract at the end of the year and talks are yet to open between his manager, Paul Connors, and St Kilda’s list manager, James Gallagher.
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But despite turning 35 before round one next year and enduring another season interrupted by short-term injury setbacks, the former Port Adelaide and Essendon ruckman is keen to continue his decorated career for a 17th season.
"I think at this time of year as an older bloke your contract comes up and there is always doubt surrounding it. My best footy, when I'm fit, is still pretty good. I'll just get through the next few weeks with the calf and re-evaluate everything. I'm looking forward to hopefully playing on," Ryder told AFL.com.au on Thursday.
"There hasn’t been anything (discussed with the club yet), but that's not to say no one is interested or anything. We've just been focused on playing footy.
"It hasn't been in the forefront of my mind but I'm sure over the next couple of weeks, now that I've got a little bit of time, there will be some conversations happening. I've enjoyed my time at the Saints. I've got some really close mates there and family in Bradley Hill. I'd rather not leave."
St Kilda has drifted from inside the top-four at 8-3 at the mid-season bye to outside the eight at 9-8 after round 18, facing the prospect of missing out on finals for a second consecutive season.
Ryder expects to miss the remaining five rounds of the home and away season and will need the Saints to make a late surge for September if he is to play again in 2022.
"I think the rest of the season, so if we don't play finals, I might not play again this year," Ryder said.
"But over the next couple of weeks the body might come along really well. I'll take it easy over the next two weeks, off legs and let it heal up and then get back into it. Hopefully the recovery speeds up."
Ryder has been troubled by a lingering Achilles issue over the past 18 months, but the West Australian is confident his body can handle the rigours of another season at the highest level.
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"Over the past couple of weeks I could feel both of my calves starting to fatigue a little bit. The club knew about it. I'm really honest with the way I feel," he said.
"The good thing is my Achilles, which everyone thinks is sore, I've been able to get that right with the physios and docs; I've put all that behind me. This is just a little hiccup with the calf."
Ryder said it has been a difficult week at RSEA Park following the disappointing loss to the Western Bulldogs that has left St Kilda's season hanging in the balance.
"It is hard to sit through those reviews. But for any change to happen, which we really need at the Saints at the moment, we need to have those conversations," he said.
"The players and the coaches, we all care about the club and we want to perform. We just aren't doing that at the moment, but that’s mainly on the players. The boys are looking to get things done. We've gone away from a few things that made us a really good side at the start of the year."
Ryder has played 281 games since making his debut in 2006 and could become only the eighth indigenous player in VFL/AFL history to play 300 games if he lands an extension for 2023.