Speculation about the possibility of Jake Stringer being traded away by the Western Bulldogs this off-season caught most footy fans by surprise late last week.
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That surprise extended to outgoing Bulldogs champion and skipper, Bob Murphy, who revealed on Wednesday that a move away from Whitten Oval by Stringer would come as a “shock”.
According to footy journo Damian Barrett, Stringer and Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge had a frank and open conversation about the future of the 23-year-old in his exit meeting, following the end of the reigning premier’s season.
The Dogs didn’t make finals in 2017 after claiming a breakthrough flag in 2016, and Stringer failed to reach his best form throughout the season just gone.
Talking to Triple M over the weekend, Barrett reported that Beveridge and Stringer’s conversation at that meeting had frosted their relationship beyond repair, and that he believed the player would be looking to make a move in the off-season.
Currently, Essendon look to be the front runner to secure the boom forward’s signature, with Geelong also believed to be in the hunt.
Despite Stringer’s inability to return to top gear in this year’s campaign, Murphy was still caught off-guard when the speculation started up.
“It was a tough year with high expectation, and we never quite got there,” Murphy told SEN Radio on Wednesday morning.
“When you have a gap as big as ours, in terms of where we finished last year, to finishing out of the eight this year, the microscope is pretty tight.
“Jake had a year well below his best, but I must admit I’m surprised to see where it’s at, at the moment.
“I’m always shocked when players are traded, especially guys who are legitimate senior players and are as talented as Jake.”
Across his 16 games for the season, Stringer managed just 24 goals, averaging a touch over 12 disposals per match.
Stringer was taken by the Dogs at pick #5 in the 2012 National Draft, and has played 89 games with the club, including the 2016 premiership.