ESSENDON coach Ben Rutten is "confident and hopeful" over captain Dyson Heppell's future at the club.
AFL.com.au's Inside Trading reported on Thursday that Gold Coast has interest in the Bombers skipper, who has been offered a one-year deal to stay at Essendon.
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.
Asked on Thursday if he was concerned Heppell was yet to sign, Rutten said: "Not really. 'Hepp' knows how much of a valuable player and person he is at this footy club.
"He knows how much we love him and want him here next year. That's all we can do at the moment and feeling confident and hopeful that will work itself out."
But there are no guarantees Heppell's contract will be finalised before season's end.
"I don't have a timeline on it, don't want to speculate on that at the moment. These things can take a bit of time," Rutten said.
Another veteran, Michael Hurley, played a full game in the VFL on the weekend as his incredible return builds some momentum.
But the two-time All-Australian, 32, won't feature against Greater Western Sydney on Saturday.
"It's been very much a week-by-week proposition with Mick. We understand the interest in him, he's a much-loved player and we'd all love to see him back at his best at AFL level, there's no doubt about that," Rutten said.
"But at the moment for him it's about taking it one step at a time. Since he started playing the games we've had to back off his training a little bit so that's all part of his progression, getting some more training load in and being able to continue to play and back up so that's what we'll keep working through with him at the moment."
MEDICAL ROOM Check out the full injury list
The Bombers are set to regain Darcy Parish, who has missed four games due to a calf injury.
Essendon (7-12) has won five of its past seven games to show some strong late-season form.