Every Thursday AFL.com.au presents Inside Trading, with breaking news and the best analysis of the Continental Tyres AFL Trade Period covering contracts, re-signings, free agents, the NAB AFL Draft and industry insights.
SUNS INTERESTED IN BOMBERS SKIPPER
GOLD Coast has interest in Essendon captain Dyson Heppell, who has been offered a one-year deal to stay at the Bombers.
Inside Trading revealed last month that rival clubs were interested in Heppell as he waited on a contract offer for 2023 at Essendon, with the Bombers then putting forward a one-year extension.
But it has not yet been signed, with the Suns understood to be interested in the 30-year-old as a possible free agency pick-up.
Heppell is an unrestricted free agent, meaning he could walk from the Bombers to join another club without a trade having to be struck.
Heppell, who has captained the Bombers since the start of 2017, has played every game this season and enjoyed a strong patch of form in the second half of the campaign, including a 28-disposal performance against North Melbourne in last week's win.
Essendon coach Ben Rutten in July said the club wanted to keep Heppell next year. – Callum Twomey
PIES BIG MAN HITS TRIGGER
COLLINGWOOD ruckman Mason Cox has reached his contract trigger and will play on at the Magpies next year.
Cox signed a one-year deal last off-season with a games clause to activate a second year of the contract, which he has now reached, locking him in at the Magpies in 2023.
The 31-year-old has played 12 games this season but been critical in some key games for the Magpies, who are enjoying a 10-game winning streak under coach Craig McRae.
His standout performance came against Melbourne in round 13's Queen's Birthday clash, when Cox had 21 disposals, took eight marks and kicked a goal against the reigning premiers.
In Brodie Grundy's injury absence, Cox has spent more time in the ruck to revitalise his career, averaging 23 hitouts a game over the past six weeks.
The American will be targeting his 100th AFL game next year, having played 88 matches so far since making his debut in 2016. – Callum Twomey
EAGLES GOALKICKER WEIGHS OFFER
WEST Coast premiership forward Willie Rioli is mulling a contract offer from the Eagles but has not been in a rush to make a call on his future.
AFL.com.au understands the Eagles have presented a multi-year deal to retain the gun goalkicker who is taking his time on his contract decision.
Rioli, who kicked 28 goals in West Coast's 2018 premiership season in his debut year at AFL level, is this week due to play his 50th career game against Adelaide at Optus Stadium on Sunday.
TRADE HUB All the latest player movement news
The 27-year-old returned to the Eagles' side last Sunday against Gold Coast after missing two weeks due to the death of his father Willie Rioli snr. He has kicked 14 goals from 11 games this year.
Rival clubs looking for forward line class are watching the Rioli situation closely with the Eagles' season three weeks from finishing and the talented goalkicker remaining unsigned. – Callum Twomey
HAWKS CAPTAIN'S FUTURE UNCLEAR
Ben McEvoy will play his 250th game this Saturday in Launceston, but the Hawthorn skipper is yet to make a call on his future beyond 2022.
The 33-year-old has overcome a career-threatening neck injury this year to play the past four games for a total of five this season.
McEvoy broke his neck at training in March and was forced to wear a brace for months, before making an inspirational return against Adelaide in round 17.
It is understood that both McEvoy and the club have always planned on making a decision at the end of the season, given the nature of the injury and his age.
Both parties have wanted to see how the two-time premiership Hawk would return after such a delicate injury.
McEvoy is one or 13 Hawks without a contract for 2023, including All-Australian forward Jack Gunston, who is attracting interest from rival clubs.
Sam Mitchell has been forced to deal with a lack of ruckmen at times throughout his first season in charge at Waverley Park, with Ned Reeves and Max Lynch both missing large chunks of the season.
The Hawks recruited project ruckman Max Ramsden via the Mid-Season Rookie Draft in June. – Josh Gabelich
SWANS FREE AGENT WAITING FOR DEAL
ROBBIE Fox's form after breaking back into Sydney's outfit has him fighting for a new contract with the club.
Fox didn't break into the Swans' senior line-up until round 11 this year, when he was the unused medical substitute, but he has played the past six weeks and been a central member of Sydney's rise into top-four calculations.
The 29-year-old has averaged 21 disposals and been a consistent part of the Swans' defence.
But the versatile backman remains without a contract offer for next year as the Swans head into September as a flag chance, with Fox an unrestricted free agent after being delisted and then re-rookied.
Fox's impact is highly rated internally at the Swans having been recruited as a mature-age pick-up from the VFL in the 2017 NAB AFL Rookie Draft.
He has played 61 games for the Swans, including 15 last year, since making his debut as a 23-year-old. – Callum Twomey
BOMBERS SWINGMAN HEADED FOR EXTENSION
JAMES Stewart's return to the Essendon senior side has come as the experienced swingman enters negotiations on a new contract.
The 28-year-old's two-year deal expires at the end of this season, but the Bombers are understood to have tabled a two-year extension to retain him.
The former Greater Western Sydney player has managed just five games this season in an injury-hit year, but returned to the AFL line-up against North Melbourne last week and kicked three goals.
Essendon had played him as a key defender last season, when he played 17 games for the club, but has thrown him back into attack to help add some marking power and strength to their inside-50 options.
Stewart spent four years at the Giants before being traded to Essendon ahead of the 2017 season, and has played 77 games across his career. – Callum Twomey
DOCKERS TO KICKSTART TALKS WITH FREE AGENT
FREMANTLE is set to step up talks with free agent forward Bailey Banfield over the coming weeks.
Banfield has not yet been offered a contract by the Dockers, but both parties are positive about working through a deal by season's end after a campaign in which he's kicked 18 goals from 19 appearances.
It's understood Banfield is determined to remain with Fremantle, despite again being demoted into an unused medical substitute role for last Friday night's loss to Melbourne.
Banfield has started eight games as the sub this season, but has consistently impacted as a pressure forward with 17 of his goals coming from his 11 starts on the field. That includes six games where he's kicked multiple goals and a haul of four majors against Brisbane in June.
The 24-year-old is a free agent courtesy of when he was delisted by the Dockers at the end of the 2020 season and reclaimed on the rookie list later that year. He has since remained at the club on back-to-back one-year extensions.
Banfield is one of a number of key Fremantle players coming towards the end of their contracts with the club, though as previously reported in Inside Trading the Dockers have tabled deals for key defender Griffin Logue as well as midfielders Blake Acres and James Aish. – Riley Beveridge
DRAFT GUN RETURNS FROM INJURY
POTENTIAL top-five pick Elijah Tsatas will return to the field this weekend after more than two months out with a foot injury.
Tsatas missed Vic Metro's first three NAB AFL Under-18 Championships clashes after injuring his foot in May. But he is set to play at school level this week with Wesley College as he ramps up his games in the back end of the year.
The hard-running midfielder starred for the Oakleigh Chargers at the start of the season, averaging 33 disposals in the opening month, to put himself in the mix for the first handful of players picked in November.
But his Oakleigh Chargers teammate George Wardlaw, who is a No.1 pick contender, will continue to be on the sidelines after a setback in his return from a hamstring injury.
The tough ball-winner also sat out Metro's three games of the carnival, but both will be back for the championships decider, which will be played at Marvel Stadium in AFL Grand Final week.
DRAFT HUB Click here for the latest draft news
The final clash between Vic Metro and Vic Country will be played in the afternoon of Thursday, September 22 with both sides unbeaten in their three carnival clashes played throughout June and July. Vic Country will also get back Brayden George, a possible first-round pick who was sidelined for the previous rounds of the carnival with a knee injury.
The climax of the under-18 national championships will be part of a busy Grand Final week, which also includes four AFLW games that week. – Callum Twomey