We’ve just finished the Silly Season for 2023 and already, the Old Mongrel is turning his thoughts toward this time next year.
We got some expected moves and some unexpected ones this year, but as we look toward the next crop of free agents, it’s time to have a gander at the biggest signatures required in 2024.
Of course, some may be certainties to re-sign with their current teams, but some may not.
JARROD BERRY – RESTRICTED FREE AGENT
Has probably stalled a little in terms of his development. A couple of years back, many were speculating that Berry would become an integral part of the Brisbane midfield, but he has been out on the wing, occasionally drifting in the middle.
I would argue that he is anything but integral to the current setup.
He could be, but he isn’t just yet. And he could walk into a few other midfields, as well.
He’ll be 26 at the start of the 2024 season – this may be his only chance at a big contract.
HUGH MCCLUGGAGE – RESTRICTED FREE AGENT
I’ll preface this by saying I expect Clug to re-sign with the Lions, but when you get the little ‘RFA’ next to a player’s name, it is always worth keeping an eye on.
It must have pained McCluggage to see two wingmen named in the AA team this year, given he was probably the best in the role for a couple of years and didn’t get a guernsey. Now, he operates mainly in the middle and will attract plenty of attention from all over the place if his contract remains in limbo as we progress through the year.
Personally, I reckon he signs with Brisbane by about Round Ten
NIK COX – OUT OF CONTRACT
The unicorn is without a deal beyond next year, and I wonder whether the bright lights of playing for the Bombers have dimmed a little since the great start to his career.
He looked like a potential rising star winner back in 2021, playing 22 games, but he has managed just 11 over the next two seasons. When he did play this year, he was trialled as a half-back. Truthfully, I can’t see him in that role and with the Bombers now flush with wingmen, that leaves half-forward.
If you’re a Bombers fan, you’d like to see him string together 20 games in a permanent position. Give him stability, allow him to develop, and I reckon he’ll be content. Throw him around all over the park… I don’t think that would be wise.
It is also worth noting that Archie Perkins will need to be re-signed, as well. I really rate him.
SEAN DARCY – RESTRICTED FREE AGENT
This is the litmus test for Freo. People have loved heaping it on the club this last couple of weeks, but in re-signing Sean Darcy, all these crap arguments of “culture” evaporate.
The main danger here, in my eyes, at least, are the Cats. Darcy played his junior footy for the Falcons, and Geelong are excellent at attracting former players back to the Cattery.
The Dockers will likely have to pay overs for the big guy, and that is fine. Sign him up as soon as humanly possible.
BEN KING – OUT OF CONTRACT
He surprised many a couple of years back, when he re-signed with the Suns when a heap of experts had him pencilled in at any number of Melbourne-based clubs.
I get the feeling the Suns’ 2024 performance will determine whether King stays or goes. Is the Suns rise up the ladder, he may want to remain part of the first successful era at the club. If they fail to make the eight again… he may start wondering how much greener the grass is elsewhere.
For the record, I hope he stays – it is vital to the growth of the Suns that he does.
ISAAC CUMMING – RESTRICTED FREE AGENT
I thought he was a sneaky chance at being an All-Australian half-back in 2022, but 2023 saw a bit of a reduced role for Cumming, as GWS just cultivated so many capable players that could perform in the role. Cumming spent time on the wing and was solid without being spectacular and I wonder whether he sees his position in the team as a little less secure than it was.
It will be interesting to see how he’s utilised early in 2024, as it may determine whether he tests the waters of free agency, or re-signs with the Giants.
CAM ZURHAAR – RESTRICTED FREE AGENT
There were plenty of rumours about him heading back to WA a couple of years back, but he stuck fat with North and has become a more potent weapon in the ensuing time.
His bash-and-crash style is very appealing to old-school footy supporters, but some fans think he is overrated. I’m not one of them. What he brings is pressure and enough physicality that opposition players look over their shoulder. I’d expect Freo to make a run at him.
TODD MARSHALL – RESTRICTED FREE AGENT
Haven’t heard much about Sticks, but he would be on the radar of plenty. At 25, he has matured and become (slightly) stronger. And despite the missed shots in the finals, having a reliable kick for goal would be high on the list of coaches everywhere.
With Charlie Dixon coming to the end, Marshall will be integral to any plans Port has of staying in contention. I cannot see him going anywhere, but there will be a few clubs making enquiries.
JACK GRAHAM – RESTRICTED FREE AGENT
Has always seemed to be on the periphery at Richmond. Like the fifth midfielder, the third wingman, and so on.
He had his name floated this time last year, and as he approaches his 26th birthday, may be looking for a bigger role with a bigger payday. I’ve always rated the defensive side of his game and I wonder whether clubs in the window would see him as one of those complimentary pieces to their premiership puzzle.
LOGAN MCDONALD – OUT OF CONTRACT
As a West Australian product, he has been on the radar of both the Eagles and Dockers since the Swans drafted him. I expect him to be in huge demand, particularly if the rumours of the Swans chasing Jamarra Ugle-Hagan after the 2024 season are true.
He’d solve a lot of issues for both WA clubs, but the Swans have put the time and effort into him and will be very keen to secure him before free agency becomes a factor.
OLLIE FLORENT – RESTRICTED FREE AGENT
Keeping an eye on this one, with Florent now playing the role of smaller defender after moving from the wing a couple of seasons back.
Florent is now in the window where he will have to decide between team success, which the Swans are highly capable of providing, or extra dollars elsewhere. Sydney have been great at player retention and Florent has been one of those players that have spurned advances from his home state.
With the Swans looking at some potentially big signings after 2024, I wonder whether Florent may end up as collateral damage?
LIAM DUGGAN – UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENT
About to turn 27, Duggan is looking at his chance to get paid, here. As an Unrestricted Free Agent, he can go wherever he pleases and doesn’t need to worry about negotiations.
Small defenders – good small defenders – are tough to come by and Duggan would be a prized pick-up by teams looking to contend.
As for the Eagles, they are probably not going to contend for the next few years, meaning that Duggan will be 30+ before he gets a chance at success with the club. Will that be a factor? Or is Duggan settled in WA and committed to helping the West Coast rebuild?
It may depend on what offers come his way. West Coast may be able to offer some pretty good coin, themselves – they have to pay someone while the kids develop.
BAILEY SMITH – OUT OF CONTRACT
There’s been so much talk around Smith this year, with the rumour he was a possibility of leaving the Dogs and heading to Geelong gathering stream before petering out.
It will be interesting to see whether Smith can recapture the form that made him such a force in the 2021 finals. He is capable of so much, and teams know it. If he cannot produce for the Dogs in 2024, he might be working elsewhere in 2025.
JAMARRA UGLE-HAGAN – OUT OF CONTRACT
The big fish.
With Naughton getting a deal that keeps him at the Dogs until he accesses the pension, there is speculation that Jamarra’s next deal will set records.
Already, Sydney have been mentioned as a potential suitor, but irrespective of where he ends up, Jamarra is getting P-A-I-D!
TIM ENGLISH – RESTRICTED FREE AGENT
Picking on the Dogs, aren’t I?
Well, maybe, but in trading away Jordan Sweet, the Dogs now have no viable backup to English and that indicates that they are all-in on the big man re-signing with them, and that they are prepared to pay overs for him.
Will attract plenty of interest from Western Australia, so the Dogs will need to empty the piggy bank to secure him.
Of course, there are more we could throw out there. Tom Stewart is a Restricted free agent, but he is as Geelong as it gets. Likewise, Errol Gulden is out of contract, but as a Sydney Academy product, I cannot see him going anywhere.
Any more you’re wondering about? Give me a yell – happy to discuss in the comments, or as part of our socials.
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