Three of the great players in the history of the West Coast Eagles will be part of the club’s 2021 campaign after signing contract extensions.
Champion forward Josh Kennedy, 2018 premiership captain Shannon Hurn and star wingman Andrew Gaff have all signed new deals.
All three are among the most highly decorated players in the club’s 34-year history, with Gaff will remain at the club for at least the next four seasons and veterans Kennedy and Hurn committing for an additional year.
Kennedy and Hurn, both 33 and born within a couple of weeks of each other in 1987, were always waiting until season’s end to assess their drive and capacity to continue into a 16th AFL campaign.
Both drafted in 2005 – Kennedy at #4 to Carlton and Hurn at #13 to the Eagles – they are part of an elite group of players who continue to impact at the highest level.
Others high achievers from that ballot who remain key players at their clubs include Scott Pendlebury (Collingwood), Marc Murphy (Carlton), Paddy Ryder (St Kilda), Shaun Higgins (North Melbourne), Grant Birchall (Brisbane) and Travis Varcoe (Collingwood).
Kennedy, of course, came to the Eagles in one of the biggest trade deals in history, when Chris Judd opted to return to his home state of Victoria in 2007 and has had a remarkable career as a dual Coleman medallist, a premiership player, three-time all-Australian and the highest goalkicker in club history.
He has played 238 games for the Eagles and has kicked 634 goals.
Kennedy must surely have been in conversations around the All Australian squad this season, playing 16 of the 17 qualifying rounds and averaging two goals a game despite exiting a couple of matches early – once with concussion, which also saw him miss the following week, and once with an ankle injury.
Hurn was also outstanding as the general in defence and his decision to continue into 2021 puts him clearly in the frame to become the club’s first 300-game player.
With 286 games against his name, the durable defender is hot on the trail of the club record of 290 that sits with champion ruckman Dean Cox.
The dual All Australian, an understated but revered figure around the club, was also a strong contributor through the season and like Kennedy, who kicked three goals in the elimination final, was among the Eagles’ best in the heartbreaking one-point loss to Collingwood last Saturday
Gaff, 28, is set to be a one-club player after committing to the next four seasons and was again one of the most consistent performers across the season. He was desperately unlucky to miss selection in the All Australian team after being named in the 40-man squad.
The midfield running machine, who played 100 per cent game time in several matches this season, took on even greater responsibility in 2020 when a number of senior members of the midfield group were sidelined through injury.
The John Worsfold medallist in 2015, Gaff is expected to be prominent in the award when it is held on Monday week.
He was one of six players to play all 18 matches – with Jack Darling, Brad Sheppard, Tom Barrass, Liam Ryan and Tim Kelly – and maintained the levels he has set throughout a distinguished 215-game career.