FORMER Geelong premiership midfielder Mathew Stokes is set to come out of AFL retirement and join ex-teammate James Kelly as an Essendon top-up player.
Newly-installed Bombers captain Brendon Goddard confirmed Stokes had undergone a medical and is poised to sign on as the Dons' next replacement player.
"I think I'm not speaking out of turn here, but I think he's been in for a medical and ticked a lot of boxes," Goddard told SENradio on Tuesday.
"I expect him (to sign)."
Stokes played 189 games for the Cats, including the 2007 and 2011 premierships, and last pulled on the boots for NTFL club Palmerston in December.
The 31-year-old joins Kelly, ex-Dockers tagger Ryan Crowley and former Hawks midfielder Jonathan Simpkin at the Dons.
"Not only do they have great experience, we all know about Pops Kelly and Stokesy about their premiership success, but the club is really confident we’ve got some great people as well," Goddard said.
"It’s a clear direction the club wanted to take with getting experienced guys and good people in to help with the development of the younger guys and to fast track things.
"Obviously the other side of it too is being competitive on field. We're really confident we've done that."
The Bombers are allowed to sign up to 10 top-up players after the Court of Arbitration for Sport banned a dozen of their biggest stars for the entire 2016 season for doping offences.
Former Richmond defender Matt Dea is reportedly set to officially sign on, while VFL listed James Polkinghorne – previously a Brisbane Lion – and ex-Melbourne ruckman Mark Jamar are also in the club's sights.
Key position players have been hardest to find, with the Dons' recruiters facing the unenviable task of replacing the likes of reigning club champion Cale Hooker and star key defender Michael Hurley.
"There's still another three or four positions to be filled," Goddard said. "We've still got a little bit of work to do targeting a few guys.
"It's obviously pretty thin pickings out there trying to find top-up players when anyone with a bit of talent would of or have been picked up already."
Goddard, who is expecting the arrival of his first child in April, will have a busy year juggling playing with his captaincy responsibilities after he was elevated to fill Jobe Watson's shoes last week.
The 30-year-old midfielder said he would cool his hot-headed and demonstrative playing style with his younger teammates this season, however he slammed former teammate Paul Chapman's criticism about his on-field antics in a recent book.
"I think most people brush a lot of the stuff that Chappy says off," Goddard said. "To be honest, what he says is really irrelevant because within the four walls, and I know people within other four walls at other footy clubs, know what Paul Chapman's like.
"I won't turn a blind eye to everything. I know there's some areas I need to improve … like a lot of people in this position I'm going to need a lot of help this year."
The former Saint said he would naturally talk to best friend Nick Riewoldt about leadership in their day-to-day conversations, and Goddard reiterated that he didn't regret moving to Tullamarine at the end of 2012, only months before the supplements saga broke.
"I really hate when people ask me that question to be honest," Goddard said.
"I say at the time I made the right decision, it was the best decision for me at the time and I don't have any regrets whatsoever."