With pre-season training in full swing, team lists are just about set. The draft is done, trades are over, and we’ve seen quite a few players find new homes.
But which of these new acquisitions will have the biggest impact in 2020? Which player will play the Tom Lynch role, and help elevate his team to another bracket? Which player will slip under the radar and have 17 other teams slapping their foreheads for not considering them?
Let’s have a look at the new arrivals at each club, and what they could bring to the table.
NEW TO THE FOLD – BILLY FRAMPTON, BEN CROCKER
TOP PICK – FISCHER MCASEY
THE BIG WINNER – Oh geez, tough one to start with. The Crows have not had a great off-season. Their acquisitions are… hmmm… average? Is that a fair word to use? I can see the slotting in and picking up a goal or three here and there, and maybe they were starved of opportunity at their former clubs, but neither is a pickup I would consider noteworthy.
But McAsey could be. Taken at pick six, I could see him slotting into the frame relatively early to both cut his teeth off half back, and give the Crows fans something interesting to cheer for early in the year. No, I don’t think they’ll be anywhere near as bad as some are predicting, but with the number of players that departed after the 2019 debacle, those incoming probably don’t fill the void, and it is pretty difficult to be too optimistic.
NEW TO THE FOLD – CAM ELLIS-YOLMEN, GRANT BIRCHALL, CALLUM AH CHEE
TOP PICK – DEVEN ROBERTSON
THE BIG WINNER – I love the move of Cam Ellis-Yolmen to the Lions. If you’re unfamiliar with his work, it’s time to get to know it. At a point in 2019, it was as though the penny dropped for CEY. He started taking possession, holding the ball above his head and crashing through tackles. It’s as though he had a moment where he realised ‘Holy shit… these guys can’t stick tackles on me!”
Ellis-Yolmen is a powerhouse, and he will use that big body of his to make things a little easier for Lachie Neale at stoppages. Great pick up.
NEW TO THE FOLD – EDDIE BETTS, JACK MARTIN, JACK NEWNES, MARC PITTONET
TOP PICK – BRODIE KEMP
THE BIG WINNER – I’ve got to hand it to Eddie Betts here. I’m naming him the winner for the Blues BECAUSE Carlton were able to wrangle Jack Martin in the pre-season draft. Martin will draw heat inside 50, and that will allow Eddie to get the room he needs to operate. At this stage of his career, Eddie is much better suited to be the second small forward, and the acquisition of Martin allows this to occur.
Is Martin all that he’s cracked up to be? As a small forward, he has averaged one goal a game just once in his career. As a midfielder, he’s never hit the 20-touches per game average for a season. Maybe the new environment is what is needed for Martin, but the fringe benefit in this deal is that Eddie Betts was just afforded some breathing room up forward.
He’s the winner here, and so is everyone else as a result.
NEW TO THE FOLD – DARCY CAMERON
TOP PICK – JAY RANTALL
THE BIG WINNER – I wrote in our patron piece yesterday that Collingwood has a premiership list at its disposal right now. Obviously the Pies think that as well, because despite losing Aish, Crocker, Murray, Wells, Dunn and Goldsack, they really didn’t attack this off-season with vigour at all.
Instead, they targeted Darcy Cameron from Sydney, who has just one AFL game to his name at this stage. Big win for Cameron to slot into Collingwood despite being basically unproven at AFL level.
He is on the list as insurance should anything happen to Brodie Grundy, and really, I don’t think we’ll be seeing too much of him.
NEW TO THE FOLD – TOM CUTLER, ANDREW PHILLIPS
TOP PICK – HARRISON JONES
THE BIG WINNER – For a team that has been so active in trade week recently, the Bombers were almost a non-entity in this one, particularly as they seemed to be centred on ensuring the Joe Daniher deal fell over.
They did, however, pick up Tom Cutler, who snuck into the very strong Brisbane defensive line up for a few games in 2019, but nowhere near enough to satisfy a player serious about his career. At 24, Cutler has plenty of footy ahead of him, but he will need to work extremely hard to find a place alongside Hurley, Hooker, Saad and McKenna.
Maybe further up the ground is a better fit.
The addition of Phillips is a timely one, given they had to play Zac Clarke as their big man in the absence of Bellchambers at points in 2019.
NEW TO THE FOLD – BLAKE ACRES, JAMES AISH
TOP PICK – HAYDEN YOUNG
THE BIG WINNER – Blake Acres walks into a team that just lost its best two runners. No, it’s not the opener of a bad joke because the punchline would be that Acres will have to work his ass off for the Dockers if they’re to improve this season.
Lost in the shuffle at St Kilda, Acres saw his overall numbers fall significantly in 2019 and necessitating a move to start afresh. He played a career-high 19 games last season, but his role in the team was superfluous to the Saints at times. He was a bit of a Nowhere Man at points, his role undefined. With vast riches coming on board at Moorabbin from other teams, Acres could not have picked a better place to land in order to capitalise on his running game.
I’ve always rated his ability to take the ball cleanly in the air, and at 23, he has a heap of good footy left in him. He should be able to hit the ground running at Freo, and they’ll need him to.
NEW TO THE FOLD – JOSH JENKINS, JACK STEVEN
TOP PICK – COOPER STEPHENS
THE BIG WINNER – I may cop some flak for this… I like Josh Jenkins! I know a lot of people spoke about him getting out the back for easy goals, and not being a great contested mark, but you were wanting him to be something he wasn’t. He is an excellent second tall target, strong and able to be something that not many players can be – sneaky!
It’s an underrated quality!
He was one of about a dozen players to average over two goals per game in 2019 with five games or more to their name. That Geelong was able to seem remotely interested, slide on in like Joe Ganino sliding into an unsuspecting old female school friend’s DMs, and get JJ for a song is a credit to them and their list guru, Stephen Wells. I reckon there are 5-6 clubs that would have benefitted greatly from having Jenkins on board, and the Cats were the ones to make it happen.
If we’re looking solely at 2020 impact, Geelong are the lucky ones, and if Jack Steven comes back fit… they’re double-lucky.
NEW TO THE FOLD – HUGH GREENWOOD, BRANDON ELLIS, ZAC SMITH
TOP PICK – MATT ROWELL
THE BIG WINNER – Hugh Greenwood. He gets out of the midfield squeeze at Adelaide (amazingly, right as a bloke he was contending for the same spot against, Cam Ellis-Yolmen departed as well) and steps into a situation that looks perfect for him.
Gold Coast were screaming out for mature bodies in the midfield last season, particularly late as the kids’ legs were gone. Whilst Greenwood is not the answer to all the ills at the Suns, his strong body, great hands overhead and ability to run out games will be incredibly valuable as the kids develop and the Suns start improving.
There will be games where the Suns falter – it is inevitable, but the addition of players like Greenwood, Brandon Ellis and the return of Rory Thompson will make them a bigger, stronger unit right from the outset. I’ll be very interested to see their early season form.
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY
NEW TO THE FOLD – SAM JACOBS
TOP PICK – LACHIE ASH
THE BIG WINNER – GWS were in such dire need of a ruck who could hold his own late in 2019, with Shane Mumford looking as though he was running up and down on the same spot and seeming as though he’d have trouble jumping over a piece of paper.
With Riley O’Brien usurping his place as the number one ruck at Adelaide, Jacobs made a great call to head to GWS, where he slots in as the number one man (with Mumford much better suited to the role of a good back up) in a team set to once again be a contender.
Will he make the difference for the Giants? Or was his injury-riddled 2019 a sign of things to come?
NEW TO THE FOLD – JONATHON PATTON, SAM FROST, MICHAEL HARTLEY
TOP PICK – WILL DAY
THE BIG WINNER – Sam Frost. Give Frosty some credit – he saw the writing on the wall at Melbourne and packed his bags. With Steven May the first choice as key defender, and with both Jake Lever and Oscar McDonald looking likely to lock down defensive spots, Frost looked around, saw an ageing full back at Hawthorn and picked them as his destination.
It was a pretty intelligent move. This will most likely be James Frawley’s last season in brown and gold, and with a good showing this season, Frost is positioning himself to transition into the main defensive post. I expect it will be his by the end of 2020.
NEW TO THE FOLD – ED LANGDON, ADAM TOMLINSON
TOP PICK – LUKE JACKSON
THE BIG WINNER – The Dees lacked outside run and polish in 2019, with too many in their midfield content with directionless kicks in the vicinity of the forward line, hoping a teammate would be somewhere near it. It had to change, and the addition of Ed Langdon could be a great start.
Though fellow Mongrel, Matt Passmore believes that Langdon hacks it a lot more than we’d think, I really don’t think he could be worse than any of Viney, Brayshaw, Oliver in 2019, who started to look as though they were trying to kick directly to defenders at stages.
As for Jackson, I sincerely hope that he was drafted as a forward, as playing behind 27-year old Max Gawn for the next five or six years seems a bit of a waste.
NEW TO THE FOLD – AIDEN BONAR
TOP PICK – CHARLIE COMBEN
THE BIG WINNER – Aiden Bonar steps away from a star-studded GWS midfield and into a situation where he has a red hot chance to contribute right away.
He played just six games in two years at the Giants, and even with significant injuries to some of their stars, could not find his way into the team. At North, he becomes one of the players ready to step in to give Shaun Higgins, Ben Cunnington and Jack Ziebell a hand when the going gets tough.
That North were able to acquire him, at 20 years old, for what equates to a pick swap, is a major coup for a team already compiling an impressive number of stars in the making.
NEW TO THE FOLD – WYLIE BUZZA
TOP PICK – MILES BERGMAN
THE BIG WINNER – I watch a fair bit of the NBA, and have for years. There were always players in the league who were there just to take up space because they were big, and now the AFL has their own equivalent in Wylie Buzza.
After nine games in three years at Geelong, Port believed it was worth the punt to pick him up in the rookie draft. I mean, it’s not like it’s costing them anything, but there’s an old saying that you get what you paid for. If Buzza didn’t cost the Power much, I reckon there’s a very good reason for it.
Still, it’s a lifeline for Wylie. I hope he makes a fist of it.
NEW TO THE FOLD – UMMMM NO ONE, REALLY
TOP PICK – THOMSON DOW
THE BIG WINNER- By process of elimination, the winner is Thomson Dow. Already feeling pretty content with himself, Dow is already being spoken about as a potential debutant in Round One against his brother at Carlton.
Perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves just a little? Maybe, but the Tigers have been known to pull a surprise selection here and there. Why not pull it in the season opener and give the kid a taste of the big time?
NEW TO THE FOLD – DOUGAL HOWARD, PADDY RYDER, RYAN ABBOTT, BRADLEY HILL, ZAK JONES, DAN BUTLER
TOP PICK – RYAN BYRNES
THE BIG WINNER – Plenty to choose from here, but I can’t go past Dougal Howard. At 23 years old, he is one of just four players to have 20+ one percenters in an individual game, and he has two of the top four games in that category ever recorded.
He loves crashing packs, loves that big ham hock fist destroying aerial contests, and loves playing in defence. So, of course, Ken Hinkley insisted he played forward at Port Adelaide. Let’s hope Brett Ratten doesn’t make the same mistake, huh?
Do we make anything of his last-place finish in the first time trial at the Saints? I don’t. I reckon he’ll be juuuust fine.
NEW TO THE FOLD – KAIDEN BRAND, SAM GRAY, LEWIS TAYLOR
TOP PICK – DYLAN STEPHENS
THE BIG WINNER – I was tossing up between Gray and Lewis Taylor, but went with the former due to the nature of his signing. I can’t believe Sam Gray was delisted by Port. Honestly, a team having the kind of off-season Port were having needed to hold onto every quality player they could, and yet here’s Sam Gray at Sydney? Wow… great get by the Swans.
The presence of Gray, who averaged 17 touches and a goal per game in 2019, will allow Tom Papley to move up into the midfield on occasions to help out, whilst maintaining a genuine small forward to work off the Swans’ tall timber. Just an inspired catch by Sydney.
NEW TO THE FOLD – TIM KELLY
TOP PICK – CALLUM JAMIESON
THE BIG WINNER – Is there any question? Tim Kelly was THE big catch of the 2019 off-season. He established himself as a bonafide star at Geelong over the past couple of years, and rightly so, West Coast had to give up plenty to get him.
The more I think about it, the more his presence will free up players like Luke Shuey, and especially Andrew Gaff who can revert to playing outside a helluva lot more. Credit to West Coast and Geelong – they got the deal done nice and early. A few teams could learn a lesson or two from them in how to make a fair and equitable deal.
NEW TO THE FOLD – ALEX KEATH, JOSH BRUCE
TOP PICK – CODY WEIGHTMAN
THE BIG WINNER – I love the pick-up of Bruce for the Dogs. With Aaron Naughton not even 20 years old at the time of writing, he had the huge task of carrying the contested marking inside 50 in 2019. Now he has someone to share the load with.
Bruce had a very solid season for the Saints, and ultimately made way in order for his former team to acquire approximately half the league during the trade period. If Bruce stays on the park, it would be nigh on impossible for his move to the Whitten Oval to be a failure. Either he starts clunking marks, or he draws some of the heat while Naughton gets some space to operate. Either way, the Dogs are in a great situation going forward.
Maybe this gives Josh Schache the foot up the backside he needs? He has gone from being looked at as the potential number one forward at the Bulldogs to the third option. If he starts feeling the pressure and lifts as a result, it is another net benefit of having Bruce on the list.
And that’s it, right? Just name the players who’ll do well from each team? Pretty straight forward and no controversy?
You don’t know me at all.
Below I’ve ranked the top ten best off-season acquisitions from this trade/free agency period. The players are ranked on what they are capable of bringing to their teams in 2020. Not five years from now. Not over the course of their career. If that were the case, all would probably be draft picks, and we’d just be trotting out the top ten as they were picked, as there are many more qualified than me to judge their potential.
So, here we go – the top ten acquisitions to have impacts in 2020.
10 – SAM GRAY (SYDNEY)
This spot came down to Gray and Jack Martin, but I opted for Gray because, unlike Martin to this point, he has delivered. Three times he has averaged over a goal per game, and he has Martin beat in career disposals per game as well. Ready to contribute immediately.
9 – JACK STEVEN (GEELONG)
All he has to do is be fitter than last season and the Cats have an absolute steal. Kelly may be gone, but a fit Jack Steven adds another excellent burst player to the Cats’ midfield.
8 – BRAD HILL (ST KILDA)
That hard gut-run, late in games when everyone else slows down has always been Hills’s strength. Now the Saints get the benefit of his supreme conditioning at his absolute peak.
7 – JOSH BRUCE (WESTERN BULLDOGS)
Takes the heat off Naughton and coming off close a career-best season, will provide the Dogs with a bit of Mongrel up forward. They lacked it last year.
6 – SAM JACOBS (GWS)
The final piece to the premiership puzzle? If he is, then he vaults to the number one slot on this list. Let’s revisit in September.
5 – HUGH GREENWOOD (GOLD COAST)
Finally has the opportunity he’s been craving. A bigger body in a team that desperately needs them, he will have every opportunity to deliver.
4 – CAM ELLIS-YOLMEN (BRISBANE)
Looks ready to start throwing his weight around. Taken a long while to get there, but Brisbane are getting the best version of him.
3 – JOSH JENKINS (GEELONG)
Unfairly maligned. With Hawkins drawing the attention, should be able to provide a great…not just good second option.
2 – DOUGAL HOWARD (ST KILDA)
Not only adds a huge presence in defence, but also may compel Jake Carlisle to pull his finger out and finally make good on what he’s promised for years.
1 – TIM KELLY (WEST COAST)
A superstar any way you slice it. Adds a dimension to a team that could very well have gone all the way in 2019.
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