The 2020 AFL off-season drama wrapped up Thursday night after a couple of weeks that I could describe as horribly arduous, boring as batshit and full of rumour-mongering journalists.
But as the last 48 hours unfolded, most players got their requests to be moved on elsewhere, with some teams doing better for themselves than others.
As has been a yearly thing with me, I like to compile a list of the biggest winners of the off-season and this year will be no different. It’s always hard to speculate at this stage, but for certain clubs, they got exactly what they were after, whether it be draft picks or players to fill a requirement in their best 22.
Remember Sam Power? He was actually taken by the Bulldogs inside the top 10 in one of the best AFL Drafts of this century – the same draft that heralded players such as Luke Hodge, Chris Judd and company. Power, himself, played over 100 games, forging a pretty ordinary career in comparison to guys such as those mentioned above as well as Steve Johnson, Gary Ablett, Sam Mitchell and Dane Swan.
But as a list manager for the same club – my goodness gracious is he absolutely smacking things out of the park or what?! Last year he did well in securing both Alex Keath and Josh Bruce without actually coughing up a first-round pick, but this year, he’s gone and managed to go one better.
By getting both Mitch Hannan and Stefan Martin, it gives the Dogs two players that will play round one barring injuries. Hannan is a mid-sized forward that is good at ground level, a decent take of the ball and is a pretty decent finish at goal. Martin gives Tim English the assistance that he desperately needs. Not only will it allow him another season to work on his strength as well as his ruck craft, but it allows the Dogs to use English at either end of the ground more freely.
And then Adam Treloar. Not even that, but the fact that they got Treloar and draft picks (Picks 26, 33 and 42) that they’ll use to match for Jamarra Ugle-Hagan at the Draft for pick 14 and a future second is an absolute steal. And to top that all off, they stood their ground on Josh Dunkley, not buckling under what they initially told Essendon what he’s worth to offload, that being two first rounders.
The Dogs have an abundance of elite midfielders, and the question has already been raised as to what Luke Beveridge will do with these players next year, but this is all positive news for now.
It’s easy to throw out the line that Geelong is the nursing home to veteran AFL talent, but the truth is that whilst it is now blatantly obvious that they’re throwing all their chips on the table for that premiership, in terms of acquisitions, they’ve done very well for themselves.
The biggest downside is that they had to give away ALL three of their first-round draft picks this year for GWS’ Jeremy Cameron and at the time of the trade they were picks 13, 15 and 20. They’ll probably be bumped down a few spots with all the early Academy picks tipped to go in this year’s draft. Having the last two Coleman Medallists in Jeremy Cameron and Tom Hawkins will be absolutely bloody potent to watch next year.
I would’ve loved for the Cats to have one of those picks to invest in the long term, because right now, they’re all about the now and that’s best summed up by bringing in two players that are in the twilight of their careers in Shaun Higgins and Isaac Smith. They are both into their 30s, but I think they have a season or two of good footy left in them.
Bringing Smith in adds depth in the wing spot for one. He’s played all his career at Hawthorn on the outside and this move will most likely push either Sam Menegola or Mitch Duncan into the centre bounces and the stoppages a little more – I’d put your money on the latter of the two playing more in the middle next year, but all the same, it adds more flexibility to their on-ball stocks.
Higgins has played a lot of minutes on-ball for North as well in recent years and he may see minutes there again in 2021. I however, can see a position for him at half-forward and given the retirement of Gary Ablett, there is a spot there that opens up with his name on it. Especially in his earlier years, Higgins was a pretty prominent as a forward that lead well or did well crumbing at ground level, just something to think about for Geelong fans for next year.
The Blues got busy this off-season, and they really needed too. They showed plenty of signs that they are on the up, but towards the end of the season, they crumbled to turned into the pure rubbish that supporters of the game had become more accustomed to over the years.
The big acquisition is Zac Williams. Yes, he costs nearly a million dollars per season, but he exactly gives the Blues a player that is quick, but also gives them grunt where need be. With a paycheck as big as his, forget about putting him in a half-back role next year – he’ll be in the middle working alongside Patrick Cripps and Ed Curnow – it’s a strong trio and Williams adds that pace to go along with the contested ball winning abilities he showed at GWS in their run to the Grand Final last year.
Whilst we’re talking about players that pace, Adam Saad is a good get for them, as the Blues don’t have much of it. Another thing they don’t have much of is rebound off a half back line. Kade Simpson is no longer there, Nic Newman didn’t play much this year and Sam Docherty is having some straight up rotten luck. Saad brings plenty of drive and rebound, giving up pick 8 for him says that they’re done investing in youth, which is more optimism for Blues’ fans, and I think they can seriously push for a top eight berth next year.
Also, just quickly, I’m a big Lachie Fogarty fan. He showed plenty of promising signs early at Geelong in his debut year in 2018, and I think with his pace and ability to pressure, he’d be a very nice addition to a forward line that features an ancient Eddie Betts and Jack Martin, who still has damning inconsistencies.
12 months after basically winning the trade period by bringing in five players that all featured heavily for them this year, they went out and brought in another two players that will unquestionably help them in their quest to go further than the Semi Finals next year, which is very possible.
I don’t care too much about Shaun McKernan being picked up as a delisted free agent, but I suppose the Saints need a tall target if Max King goes down with injury next year. I don’t think it would’ve hurt to enquire about Tom McDonald, who will find himself stuck down the pecking order at Melbourne next year, both as a key forward and a key defender. With both Jack Higgins and Brad Crouch however, I care very much about, because both men will be in the Saints’ best 22 without question.
Crouch won’t be in the round one team next year because of his silly little indiscretion with Tyson Stengle as a parting gift to the Adelaide Crows, but he will be in this team at the first opportunity because his abilities as a contested midfielder are so good. It was only 12 months ago that he won Adelaide’s best and fairest before they became a complete unmitigated mess. Having him complement guys such as Jack Steele, Zak Jones, Jade Gresham, Seb Ross and others – it almost completes their midfield brigade.
As far as Higgins goes, well it’s been said that he wants to play more in the middle at the Saints, but where does he actually fit in with the whole dynamic of the team? At Richmond he showed plenty of nous around forward 50 and was very clever in terms of his decision making going forward. I’m not saying he won’t do good things in the middle, but the Saints are already well poised in this regard.
But all the same, the Saints have done themselves very well in securing two very talented players. Oh, and they have a Draft pick in the top 25 still, which is quite neat. Could be exceptional if they nail the pick come Draft night.
I don’t often say this and it’s not often that my Bulldog bias actually comes out in these pieces, but quick message for Adrian Dodoro, the pro-Essendon commentators in the media and all the delusional Dons supporters that thought Josh Dunkley was worth less than two first-round draft picks: Get a big dog up you!
Despite the fact that they didn’t land the man that would elevate their on-ball brigade to the next level, they did bring in a lot of other players and picks that should help them rebuild and rebound from what was a very poor 2020. Losing Joe Daniher and Orazio Fantasia means very little, because they haven’t played many games in the past few years, but they got picks seven and 29 back for them respectively, which is a massive tick.
Pick 29 was used as part of a package deal to get GWS’ Jye Caldwell over the line. He’s a very good player and was a top 10 ranked player in what is looking like a stacked 2018 Draft class. If what the Giants said about him ready to burst onto the scene is true, then two second-round picks is another massive plus!
They also have pick eight from the Saad deal, meaning that they go into the AFL Draft with picks six, seven and eight which is a very tasty position to be in, regardless of what Academy picks are gone by then. If they somehow manage to luck out and get one of Will Phillips or Elijah Hollands at six then they’ve done very well for themselves, but at this stage it will be more likely than not that they are off the board.
They also managed to snag former top-10 pick Peter Wright on the dirt cheap, with the Dons sending a future fourth back to the Gold Coast. Big Peter is a strong unit, capable of taking a big grab and has proven to kick a bag on his day. But with him being bumped out of the team in favour of Ben King and Sam Day, he was more surplus there than anything else.
West Coast Eagles
How does a team that had no real trade capital to start with secure two players that will be part of the Eagles’ future plans? West Coast had their draft stocks pilfered by Geelong last year when they got Tim Kelly back home to WA. It wasn’t the year they wanted, but given that they still finished just outside the top four, they got two players that will bring plenty to the table.
Trading in Alex Witherden from Brisbane for a pick in the late 50s should be treated as an absolute crime. It wasn’t too long ago that he was taken just outside the first round, when he could’ve easily been in. He’s a very handy half-back player who showed in his first two years that he could rebound, intercept and do all the things a half back should.
This year, he just couldn’t break into the side this year with Grant Birchall and Callum Ah Chee taking over from him in the half-back positions. At the Eagles, there is a spot at half-back with his name on it. Lewis Jetta hasn’t got himself a contract for next year and Shannon Hurn is entering the last season or two in his career you’d imagine. Getting him as cheap as they did is absolutely insane.
With Langdon, the Eagles get another dynamic small forward that will already add to a potent forward line. Willie Rioli won’t be back for a while and Jack Petruccelle isn’t the answer to the replacement. Langdon is pretty quick in his own right, but he also possesses great goal sense and is very lively when the ball hits the deck up forward. Along with Jamie Cripps and Liam Ryan, he won’t look out of place.