THE THREE-WAY race for contracted Port Adelaide defender Dougal Howard is over.
Howard met with St Kilda, North Melbourne and Essendon a fortnight ago and was considered a potential piece in the Power’s bid to secure Bomber Orazio Fantasia.
AFL.com.au understands the 23-year-old has requested a trade to the Saints, who are shaping as one of the biggest players in this year’s Telstra AFL Trade Period.
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Fremantle wingman Brad Hill, Sydney dasher Zak Jones and 2017 All Australian ruckman Paddy Ryder have already nominated St Kilda as their preferred landing point.
On the flipside, the Saints’ four-time club champion Jack Steven is likely headed to the Cattery for a late second-round pick and Josh Bruce will almost certainly be a Bulldog in 2020.
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St Kilda football boss Simon Lethlean made public his club’s interest in 199cm Howard on the opening day of the Trade Period.
“If Dougal wants to come to the Saints, he fits in as a key position (player) – whether that’s back or forward,” Lethlean said on Monday.
“He can probably play as a swingman as well, so he’d fit nicely with (Jake) Carlisle, (Max) King and others. He’s a pretty impressive player and kid.
“He’s captained his club this year (in one game), so it shows the leadership he’s got. He’d be a good get if he wants to come to Victoria, but I don’t think he’s decided yet.”
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Howard signed a three-year contract extension in December last year to remain at Alberton until the end of the 2022 season but circumstances have changed dramatically since then.
The Power preferred to use co-captain Tom Jonas and Tom Clurey as their key defenders this past season, and instead sent Howard into the forward line.
— AFL (@AFL) July 20, 2019
Howard kicked multiple goals in four games before he was dropped to the SANFL for the final month of the AFL season.
Port Adelaide’s list management team subsequently informed him in his exit meeting that his future at the club was as a forward, and gently encouraged him to explore his options.
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Essendon had long coveted Howard but the hold-up in Fantasia announcing his intentions effectively ruled the Bombers out.
— AFL (@AFL) May 3, 2019
Howard will join a St Kilda backline that includes Carlisle, captain Jarryn Geary, Josh Battle, Callum Wilkie, Shane Savage, Jimmy Webster and the returning Dylan Roberton.
Veteran defender Nathan Brown remains uncontracted and it is unclear if Howard’s arrival will impact on him.
The only stumbling block in Howard becoming a Saint is if the Power play hard ball and refuse to give him up.
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