Port Adelaide have reportedly joined the race for Gold Coast Suns free agent Ben Ainsworth, who is weighing up his future in Queensland despite having an offer on the table from the Suns.

Ainsworth is one of five remaining restricted free agents in 2024, joining Patrick Dangerfield, Jarrod Berry, Tim English and Cameron Zurhaar in falling under the restricted band and still being unsigned for next year.

That pool was recently shortened after Brisbane midfielder Hugh McCluggage, Hawthorn utility Blake Hardwick, and Sydney forward Will Hayward decided to pen long-term contract extensions at their respective clubs.

Hayward's decision to remain in Sydney is likely to have spiked rival interest in Ainsworth, given the number of clubs keen to bolster their attacking options at the end of the year.

Ainsworth has had a four-year on offer by the Suns for some time now, however a decision is yet to be made by the Morwell product.

According to AFL.com.au's Cal Twomey, Ainsworth has a new suitor in the form of the Power, who joined Essendon in expressing an interest in the 26-year-old.

"He has a four-year offer from the Suns, but is weighing interest," Twomey told Gettable. 

"Essendon is keen, but I can also add today that Port Adelaide is among the clubs with interest in Ben Ainsworth.

"They are in the free agent market and the small forward market as well. I think Ben Ainsworth is in that group."

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - MAY 11: Ben Ainsworth of the Suns kicks a goal during the round eight AFL match between the Gold Coast Suns and the Melbourne Demons at Metricon Stadium on May 11, 2019 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Jono Searle/AFL Photos/Getty Images)

Should Gold Coast lose Ainsworth through free agency, his departure could significantly aid the club's pursuit of leading Suns Academy prospect Leondardo Lombard, who could fetch a rival bid in the opening five selections of November's National Draft.

With the AFL mulling whether to introduce changes to the draft system that could make access to priority prospects harder from 2024, a stronger draft hand could be needed for the Suns to attain Lombard and others at this year's intake.

Given Ainsworth's restricted status, the Suns have the ability to match a rival's contract offer and force a trade with the club in question.

Port Adelaide's interest in Ainsworth comes as the club looks to find more small forward assets to complement its strong crop of tall attackers.

The Power have gotten a good return from Darcy Byrne-Jones' move to the forward 50 this year, while Willie Rioli has levelled Byrne-Jones' 17 goals for the season so far from two fewer appearances.

Outside of those two, the Power haven't found a third ground-level goal threat, with Jed McEntee, who is more of a pressure forward, kicking just the four goals from 11 games while Sam Powell-Pepper will spend most of the next 12 months on the sidelines.

The Power would also be keen on acquiring Ainsworth as a free agent given he may not cost the club any draft capital, with Port Adelaide already without a first-round pick for this year's count after trading it to Fremantle in 2023.

 2024-06-22T03:45:00Z 
 
 
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