MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 01: Brandon Zerk-Thatcher of the Bombers is tackled by Willem Drew of the Power during the 2023 AFL Round 16 match between the Essendon Bombers and the Port Adelaide Power at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 1, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

A second interested party in off-contract Essendon defender Brandon Zerk-Thatcher has reportedly emerged.

Hailing from South Australia and having previously played for the SANFL outfit Sturt, Zerk-Thatcher has had an up-and-down season in Brad Scott's Essendon defence, showing glimpses of his intercepting prowess while also, at times, succumbing to opponents in one-on-one contests.

Port Adelaide was strongly linked to a possible acquisition of Zerk-Thatcher last week, though a new contender, not too far in the distance, has apparently surfaced and could challenge the Power for the young backman's signature this off-season.

According to journalist Josh Gabelich on Thursday, the Adelaide Crows are preparing to throw their hat in the ring for the intercepting defender, who is preparing to head back to his home state to contemplate the location of his footballing future.

Adelaide's apparent interest in nabbing a key-position defender is understandable considering Nick Murray is destined to miss a substantial portion of next season after rupturing his ACL in Round 20 against Melbourne.

Meanwhile, fellow key backman Tom Doedee, who is also recovering from a torn ACL, is off-contract and could be tempted home to Victoria by signing a rival club's offer sheet as a restricted free agent.

Gabelich maintains Zerk-Thatcher, who played 22 games for Essendon this season, has not requested a trade as yet and is still open to continuing his AFL career at Tullamarine if both sides can come to an agreement.

However, following a season during which the 25-year-old ranked third-worst in the AFL among key defenders who faced at least three contested defensive one-on-ones per game, the Bombers and veteran list boss Adrian Dodoro may view Zerk-Thatcher as an expendable commodity.

Further to Essendon's uncertainty regarding Zerk-Thatcher, the Bombers have been heavily linked to restricted free agent Kangaroo Ben McKay, who is also reportedly being sought after by a host of other rival clubs.

Also at Tullamarine, despite a reported contract standstill, the Bombers and uncontracted midfielder Darcy Parish are expected to resolve their disputes and come to a long-term agreement to keep the ball-winner at the Hangar for years to come.