Fremantle star Luke McPharlin says the looming spectre of free agency has nothing to do with his decision to ignore contract discussions until the end of the season.
McPharlin, Ryan Crowley and Antoni Grover are Fremantle's only free agents for this season. While Grover, 32, is expected to retire after playing just one game this year, McPharlin and Crowley are in outstanding form.
McPharlin has repeatedly beaten the opposition's best key forward and is a strong chance to be selected in the All-Australian team.
Crowley has restricted Richmond's Brett Deledio, Adelaide's Scott Thompson and West Coast's Luke Shuey to season-low possession tallies in his last three games as part of an elite tagging season.
Contract discussions have become major issues for Adelaide and Collingwood as they attempt to re-sign key forwards Kurt Tippett and Travis Cloke. Both clubs have put negotiations on hold until the end of the season in a bid to avoid the issue becoming a distraction.
McPharlin said he would also wait until the end of the year before discussing a new deal. But the veteran of 207 AFL games said his decision was based around a long-standing belief that contracts and football games shouldn't be mixed.
Only one of his deals has been signed mid-season throughout his career, and that came in 2004 while he was injured.
"I've always done that with my contracts. I've never signed in- season before. That's just the rhythm I've kept up over the journey," McPharlin said.
"Once the season ends, I can get into a better head space.
"I find it's a bit of a distraction.
"You want to keep your head solely focused on football. It's something I've always done and that's the way I do my contracts.
"I've really enjoyed playing under Ross (Lyon). The team is growing and it's certainly an exciting time at Fremantle."
The Dockers are expected to take an aggressive strategy into the free-agency period. They have offered Cloke a lucrative long-term deal and Brendon Goddard has also been linked to the club.
Goddard has indicated he wants to stay at St Kilda but former Hawthorn champion Dermott Brereton told SEN on Monday that the Saint had recently received an offer from a rival club that would be difficult to reject.
Meanwhile, the AFL yesterday cleared Fremantle of any wrong- doing for replacing ruckman Jonathon Griffin with Aaron Sandilands just minutes before Saturday's game against Richmond.
AFL general manager of football operations Adrian Anderson said the Dockers provided the league with a medical certificate and a copy of an MRI showing an adductor strain which occurred during the warm-up. The AFL accepted Fremantle's explanation.
Sandilands' late inclusion took another twist when rival coaches Ross Lyon and Damien Hardwick voted him second best on ground in the AFL Coaches' Association award.