Tim Kelly remains open to a move to Fremantle despite the likelihood he will request a trade to West Coast at seasons end.
The Age understands Kelly, who has an offer from Geelong, is leaning towards repeating the trade request he made in an attempt to join the Eagles last season.
However, unlike last October, he has not ruled out playing with the Dockers in 2020 if a deal between Geelong and West Coast cannot be reached.
With hopes dwindling that he will remain a Cat, the Dockers are likely to be in a position to offer Geelong a better deal than West Coast, who remain a strong contender to win back-to-back flags.
Kelly and his Western Australia-based manager Anthony Van Der Wielen – a director at South Fremantle – have been monitoring the situation at Fremantle this year after refusing to entertain a deal with the Dockers last year despite their interest in the star midfielder.
There remain widespread concerns within the AFL industry about the stability of the landscape at the Dockers.
Although football department chief Peter Bell has rebuffed suggestions of a rift with chief executive Steve Rosich, Fremantle have a host of assistant coaches out of contract.
Brad Hill is set to request a trade to Victoria, senior coach Ross Lyon is poised to enter the final year of his contract and list manager Mark Micallefs job security has appeared shaky after it emerged that Bell had approached Adelaide analytics guru Binuk Kodituwakku about a role at the Dockers.
Kelly was non-committal about his future when he spoke publicly in Fremantle a fortnight ago as he attempted to maintain his focus on the upcoming finals series with the Cats.
His Geelong teammates are understanding of the reasons that might lead him to request a trade home however they expect him to commit himself totally to the Cats' premiership tilt in 2019.
Geelong last year turned down the Eagles' offer of picks 20, 22 and a future second-rounder for the man who is among the favourites for this year's Brownlow.
North Melbourne is yet to discuss a contract extension beyond 2020 for star midfielder Shaun Higgins with Geelong showing interest in the contracted 31-year-old ahead of Kelly's potential departure.
Higgins was All-Australian in 2018 and is considered one of the game's elite midfielders, blossoming late in his career after making the switch from the Western Bulldogs at the end of 2015.
On Tuesday, Higgins said he wasn't attempting to force the Kangaroos into giving him an extension beyond 2020, with the on-baller not expecting to discuss what lay ahead until his season is over in a fortnight.
His manager Bruce Kaider, from One Managment Group, described any discussion of a potential move as premature with Higgins still contracted to North Melbourne for next season.
He also shot down speculation that Higgins had rejected an offer to extend with North Melbourne.
"There have been no offers for us to accept or reject from the Kangaroos," Kaider said.
"Any other discussions are premature. What has been missed is Shaun is actually contracted for next year."
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