AARON Sandilands is closing in on a one-year contract extension to extend his career at Fremantle into a 17th AFL season.
The club’s oldest player, who turns 35 in December, is expected to sign the new deal within the next month.
An agreement is in the pipeline amid growing fears that injury-prone ruckman Zac Clarke will not play at all this season and is confronting the potential end to his AFL career.
Clarke remains in rehabilitation after having three bouts of surgery to his left knee since the end of last season with no playing return date in sight.
Sandilands’ management met with Fremantle earlier this month to finalise the terms surrounding the contract extension.
A decision is understood to have been postponed by Dockers’ list manager Brad Lloyd after the club was left stunned by their horror first fortnight to start the season.
A revitalised Fremantle have since rebounded strongly with upset wins over the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne to move to a 2-2 win-loss ledger.
Sandilands, who has publicly declared his desire to play on, has been a key part in the club’s revival.
He dominated the ruck in the absence of injured All-Australian Max Gawn in Saturday’s two-point win over Melbourne at the MCG, amassing 14 disposals, 53 hit-outs and five clearances.
The veteran ruckman also took two contested marks at critical stages in the final quarter to help secure the best win for Fremantle in two years.
Sandilands has been made even more potent this year by the introduction of the third-man up rule that forces opposition sides to nominate one player to contest ruck duels against the Dockers giant.
The four-times All-Australian could yet become the league’s oldest player by extending his career into 2018.
He is younger than Western Bulldogs pair Bob Murphy and Matthew Boyd, Eagles duo Sam Mitchell and Drew Petrie, four-times Hawthorn premiership star Shaun Burgoyne and St Kilda champion Nick Riewoldt, but none of those are guaranteed to play on beyond this season.
Fremantle still have no immediate replacement for Sandilands next season. Clarke is injured, Jon Griffin has been dropped back to the WAFL, and Sean Darcy and Luke Strnadica are still raw and developing in their first seasons.
Clarke remains on the Dockers’ long-term injury list.
His two most recent operations are linked to damage sustained around a screw in his injured kneecap and have occurred each time he has attempted to step up training loads.
Several medical updates have failed to confirm whether the 27-year-old should be realistically aiming to play again this year.
Clarke is running out of time to salvage his 101-game AFL career. He is on a one-year contract that runs out at the end of this season.
Originally published as Freo giant gears up for one more year
SOURCE: newsnow sport