The AFL’s longest playing career is set to end on Sunday, but the question remains whether Dustin Fletcher will be wearing Essendon’s red sash or the club suit.
Fletcher’s contract expires at the end of the season – incredibly his 23rd year as a Bomber – with no word or suggestion from the club whether he will play on in 2016.
A clue dropped last week when his eponymous autobiography was made available on the club’s website under the heading “Farewell Fletch” before it was changed to simply “Fletch”.
Fletcher’s body may have finally given in to the rigours of the game.
The 40-year-old hasn’t played AFL or VFL football since aggravating his groin in his milestone 400th match in round nine.
On Sunday, Essendon ends their season against Collingwood in a match with no ramifications for finals but a chance to farewell one of the greats.
The 40-year-old was interviewed by Fox Sports on his way from Essendon’s training base on Monday morning, saying he “pumped the training out” by himself with a 30-minute training run.
“I’ll see how we go, I can’t say too much at this stage,” he said of his prospects to play.
“Fifty-fifty I’ll give you.”
Caretaker coach Matthew Egan said the club wanted to see him on the MCG.
“He’s going to do his best to get up, but he needs to get to a level where he can play,” Egan said.
“He has been struggling the last month, so it is going to be hard for him to get up, but we want to give him every chance to play.”
Magpies forward Travis Cloke is also no sure thing to turn out after muscle tightness forced his withdrawal prior to Friday night’s win over Geelong.
Fletcher is the league’s longest serving player, having debuted in Essendon’s 1993 premiership year.
He has been overtaken in games played by Brent Harvey – who coincidentally also first played in his club’s 1996 flag-winning season.
Harvey, Fletcher, Michael Tuck and Kevin Bartlett are the only four men in VFL/AFL history to have reached 400 games.