The silver lining to the disappointment of Tom Boyd’s surprising early retirement is that the Bulldogs have moved quickly to lock in their key talent, with Tom Liberatore joining a clutch of other top Dogs to recommit.
Liberatore, who was out of contract at the end of this year, has signed a new two-year contract extension.
Re-signed: Tom Liberatore.Credit:AAP
He joins Lachie Hunter and Aaron Naughton in recently committing to long-term deals – both are contracted through until the end of 2024. Superstar Marcus Bontempelli had agreed terms at the end of last year, prior to any knowledge of Boyd’s retirement, to a contract extension through until the end of 2021.
The news of Liberatore's contract extension came just hours before another Bulldog, Lin Jong, revealed on social media that he had decided to step away from AFL to deal with mental health issues.
"I’ll be taking some time away from playing football due to some mental health issues I’ve been battling with," Jong wrote.
"Just so nothing is misconstrued, I feel I have tried my best to play footy while dealing with it, but I now feel it’s the right time to make my mental health a priority.
"I also think it’s important to be upfront and honest, as there’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. I’d also encourage anyone struggling to speak up. I have all the support I can ask for and hope to be back playing eventually."
Liberatore had been an awkward one for the Dogs as he was only signed to a one-year contract extension at the end of last year as they – and he – waited to see how he returned from a second knee reconstruction.
This year they quickly established the surgery had not altered how he played the game.
But the Dogs had also changed since the star onballer was last playing. Premiership teammates had gone, the team had fallen out of the eight and was sliding from the bracket of contending teams.
Beyond that he was also a free agent and his brother, Chris, has been hired as the national recruiting manager at St Kilda, who have been working aggressively to overhaul their list in recent years.
There were strong suggestions – or assumptions – in the recruiting industry that Liberatore could go to Moorabbin. Those assumptions proved wrong.
The Bulldogs had the scope to keep the players they wanted as well as Boyd – and his welfare and getting him back to playing was always the priority – but his sudden departure altered their salary cap for the next few years and freed up money to make the re-signings of their best talent a priority.
They are now moving to re-sign small sweeping defender Caleb Daniel and midfielder Josh Dunkley, who are both out of contract at the end of the season.
The 27-year-old, whose dad Tony won a Brownlow at the Dogs, was taken as a father-son selection and after 128 games at the Dogs, the idea of him playing elsewhere did not appeal.
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