Well, I am both happy and sad to say that we’ve reached that point of the season.
Around the bye rounds every season, we start to work out who is staying at their club following the season, and who’ll be out the door. The way I look at it, unless a soon-to-be uncontracted player is giving some serious indication that they’re working toward a new contract , we’re looking at a potential departure for the 2024 season.
Whilst we still have roughly half the 2023 season to go, some teams are already looking forward, wondering how they can bolster their future lineups and how they can convince players who might be on the fence to stay with them, or jump ship if they’re with another club.
So, it is now worth having a look at some of the names rumoured to be looking for greener pastures as of October, and see whether we can get close to the truth.
RFA – Restricted Free Agent (current team has the capacity to match any offer)
UFA – Unrestricted Free Agent (player can walk to any team he desires, irrespective of current club’s offers)
OOC – Out of contract – Player must be traded for, or enter the pre-season draft
I’m not going to be going into detail of every player out of contract… that’d take a while and would be a bit of a waste of my time. Just the interesting ones are listed. Let’s go.
MATT CROUCH – UFA
TOM DOEDEE – RFA
The Crows have made it pretty clear to Matt Crouch that he isn’t in their plans for the future, with the free agent lining up for one game in 2023. I guess we’ll have to see if there are any takers for an accumulator who does bugger all with the footy.
Tom Doedee’s ACL injury probably won’t damage his earning potential too much, but it is obviously less than ideal and take a bit of the shine off what would have been a great pick-up.
You’ll see me harp on about this at points, but Geelong Falcons tend to head back to the Cattery a bit. I would not be surprised to see him in the hoops next season.
DEVEN ROBERTSON – OOC
RHYS MATHIESON – RFA
Robertson had plenty of interest coming out of his home state of WA last season, but with a year to run, was viewed as an asset worth keeping for the Lions. Now without a deal, they may be forced to work a deal with the Eagles, who are crying out for some young, solid midfielders. He fits the bill perfectly, and as he is on the edge of the best 22 at the Lions, should not command too high a price in a trade.
As for Mathieson, I might be one of the few covering the game that genuinely rates his mongrel. He is obviously a level or two below the current midfield crop of Neale, Dunkley, and the emerging Ashcroft, but his harness at the contest and combative nature would be a nice pick up for a team looking for some grunt. Another former Falcon, so if he is going cheap, maybe Geelong get another?
MITCH MCGOVERN – OOC
PADDY DOW – OOC
TOM DE KONING – OOC
The big name here is Tom De Koning. With the Blues re-signing Marc Pittonet for four years recently, we can read plenty into the situation if we choose to.
His brother currently occupies a defensive role at Geelong, but he has no ties to the club, previously. There will be plenty of teams watching this situation closely. He is an enormous talent that will come into his own over 2024-25. You’re trading for a biiiiig possibility of getting something special, here.
Paddy Dow’s value has dropped so low that a team could grab him for a third or fourth rounder, now. Likely, if the Blues continue to falter down the stretch, he’ll get games to “fatten him up” for prospective buyers. Not sure there will be many and it would not surprise me to see him grabbed in the pre-season draft if a deal cannot be worked out.
I expect Mitch McGovern to re-sign with the Blues. He has made out like a bandit when we weigh what he was paid with what he produced. I reckon he stays out of guilt.
I did hear someone saying West Coast should sign him. Np… don’t do that, please Eagles. You’re in enough bother as it is.
NO ONE OF NOTE
How crap is that… for everyone else. The league leaders have locked up everyone other than Steele Sidebottom and he has been part of the furniture there for 15 years. He’s not going anywhere.
Mason Cox is a restricted free agent, but he’ll be 33 by the time the 2024 season rolls around.
DARCY PARISH – RFA
MASON REDMAN – RFA
I read with interest that Darcy Parish’s people have opened negotiations with Essendon. This is a great sign for the Bombers, but I wonder whether the emergence of Ben Hobbs will impact the numbers being thrown around?
Parish is another former Geelong Falcon, and I expect them to be very interested in him.
As for Redman, he is turning 26 in a couple of months and is at the peak of his powers. This is his big payday, so the Bombers will not want to jerk him around in terms of cash. He will have no shortage of suitors if they do.
JOSH TREACY – OOC
Treacy has started to come on this season in the absence of Matt Taberner. He is a country Victoria kid and if there is any pull to head home, the 20-year-old could force a trade.
Interestingly, Geelong have been eyeing off Sean Darcy, as well, who has 2024 to run before he enters restricted free agency. If they can have a mature discussion and discover Darcy intends to leave, Freo would be better positioned to work a deal out now than waiting until he is able to walk.
I hope he stays and builds with them.
NOT WORRIED ABOUT ANY OF THEM, TO BE HONEST
Well, there are a lot of players we’re discussing coming to Geelong… and no one leaving?
Brad Close is out of contract and is a Glenelg product. He plays a wonderful combo of offence and defence as a half-forward. If you were an SA club, you’d be crazy not to ask the question of his management. Gryan Miers doesn’t have a deal, either.
The Big Sav is also out of contract. He has likely added a few dollars to his value this season, and was linked to Port Adelaide after last season.
JEREMY SHARP – OOC
SAM FLANDERS – OOC
Sharp is a WA product that had his name mentioned last year, but under contract to Gold Coast, was unable to find an acceptable deal. With no contract holding him there this year, he’ll be out in one way or another. Would be good on the wing for the Eagles, as they need a strong runner to replace the plodder, Andrew Gaff.
Flanders is a Victorian who is seeing out the final stages of his rookie extension. With four games to his name in 2023, I can safely say he’ll be exploring options.
HARRY HIMMELBERG – RFA
LACHIE ASH – OOC
These are two great gets!
Ash is a midfielder waiting to happen, but due to the abundance of on-ball talent at GWS, has spent a heap of time off half-back. He was taken early in the 2019 draft (pick four) to enable the Giants to secure academy pick, Tom Green, as well.
Ash is a hard runner, can play defensively or offensively, and would be a wonderful addition to a team putting together a young core. He turns 22 in a couple of weeks, so there are great things in store for him, whether that be at GWS or elsewhere.
Harry Himmelberg is one of the hottest properties of the coming off-season. A NSW product, I reckon Sydney might be eyeing him off for a move cross-town, particularly with their defensive stocks taking an absolute caning this year. However, it would not surprise me to see him look far and wide.
His brother is currently struggling to find consistent time in the Crows’ forward line, so going there could even work against his sibling should Matthew Nicks see him as a forward.
Isaac Cumming is a free agent after next year, as well. Worth keeping an eye on.
JAMES WORPEL – OOC
After a couple of pretty ordinary years, Worpel has bounced back in 2023 to play some pretty impressive footy in the midfield for the Hawks. It feels like he has been around forever, but is still just 24, so he is now entering his peak years and has a Best and Fairest under his belt from 2019.
Currently ranked fourth in centre clearances per game, he could be a great pickup for… oh piss off… another former Geelong Falcon.
I’d also keep an eye on what’s happening with Denver Grainger-Barras. With just two games in 2023, things are not going as well the Hawks would like. He is a Swan Districts product, so a deal with either WA team may be of benefit.
Conor Nash enters free agency after the 2024 season. That kind of snuck up on me…
JAMES JORDON – OOC
JJ seems to be forever on the periphery at Melbourne. He’s played ten games in 2023 and has been the starting sub in six of them. Looked to be a great fit on the wing for the Dees, but his place has been usurped by Lachie Hunter, so his best opportunity to garner significant playing time could be elsewhere.
I’m not sure you could begrudge him looking. He was the bloke who sat on the bench the entire 2021 Grand Final… he’s had enough of being the sub.
BEN MCKAY – RFA
North have a heap of players without a deal next year, quite by design, you’d think. However, one they’d be desperate to lock away would be Ben McKay.
Unfortunately, Ben knows what he is worth n the open market and will, at least, test the waters. North have the cash to throw at him to retain him, but offers will come thick and fast for McKay. As with most who are unsigned at this point of the season, his retention is becoming doubtful.
I’d love to see him stay at North and build them into a winner, for the record.
Interestingly, both Cam Zurhaar and Nick Larkey enter free agency after next season.
MILES BERGMAN – OOC
MITCH GEORGIADES – OOC
RILEY BONNER – RFA
West Coast wanted Mitch Georgiades as part of the Willie Rioli deal last year, but Port were pretty adamant he wasn’t going anywhere. I wonder if that door opens again with the forward out of contract?
Miles Bergman has had a breakout season, moving from playing a lot of wing in 2022 to become more of an intercepting half-back this season. He is a Victorian product, and though he is likely worth a fair bit more now than he was at the start of the season, every week he remains unsigned would create an extra worry for Port supporters.
Similar to Georgiades, Riley Bonner was mentioned often when the Jason Horne-Francis trade was brought up. Again, Port shut it down, but he remains without a deal for 2024
KAMDYN MCINTOSH – UFA
JACK GRAHAM – OOC
The Tigers are rebooting, and whilst these two provided some excellent run and grunt for the club through some glorious times, I wonder how heavily they feature in the next iteration of Richmond’s plans. McIntosh at 29 is not likely to get a deal he likes with the Tigers. If he can squeeze an extra year or two out of another club, the Richmond faithful would wave him goodbye fondly.
As for Graham, he is the type of midfielder a club on the brink of finals would find very attractive. He is a great tackler and at 25, is ready to contribute right away. With the Tigers nabbing Hopper and Taranto, I’m not sure his place in the rotation is enough for him. Maybe it is, but maybe he has eyes on a bigger role, elsewhere.
HUNTER CLARK – OOC
JADE GRESHAM – RFA
NICK COFFIELD – OOC
Hmmm, Gresham is an interesting one. Injury-plagued for a few years, he is stringing together a decent season in 2023, but is very much a case of buyer beware with him.
Hunter Clark was reported to be a target for North Melbourne last off-season, but that fell through. It’s amazing how deals get done so much easier when there are no more years to screw around with on a contract, huh?
As for Coffield, his star was really starting to shine a couple f years back, but an ACL injury, followed by the leg injuries that often follow as one attempts to regain fitness and mobility, have limited him to no games this season. If he doesn’t get back, that is two years without a game – his ceiling for getting paid might be a lot lower than he realises.
Jack Sinclair is a free agent after the 2024 season… time to break open the St Kilda piggy bank. Tim Membrey, too.
DYLAN STEPHENS – OOC
HAYDEN MCLEAN – OOC
JOEL AMARTEY – OOC
A high draft pick who started the season well, but, much like his team, has stumbled since.
Stephens is a former number five pick (2019), but hailing from Norwood, the SA clubs would be keeping a close eye on his contract situation over the next month or so. In a very similar situation as he found himself last season, the expected improvement has not come. It may make him expendable, particularly with Errol Gulden playing some wing along with Justin McInerney.
Amartey has shown enough to cause some excitement, both at Sydney and any other club that feels he may be gettable. There was lots of talk about the presence of Buddy Franklin stepping on his toes earlier in the year, but a bad hamstring injury quietened that down.
Hayden McLean is the other big marking forward that could attract attention. They’re both from the same U18 club (Sandringham) and you wonder whether they’ll both be at Sydney next season given their current contractual situations. My gut feeling is they stay.
JAI CULLEY – OOC
Like Tom Doedee, his ACL injury has reduced his value a bit, but at just 20 years of age, he has a bright future. West Coast grabbed him in the 2022 mid-season draft and he was showing a bit before his injury.
It probably gives the Eagles a good shot at retaining him, as a mid-season draftee with just five games under his belt this season won’t likely command a high price.
BAILEY WILLIAMS – RFA
Has been deployed on the wing since Bailey Dale became such a force off half-back. He has had his moments, as well, but with the ability to run forward and hit the scoreboard on display this year, Williams is doing his value no harm at all.
Has adopted more the offensive wingman role this season after rolling back to defend a lot in 2022. At 25, he is in his peak years – might get an offer or two from SA clubs, as he was with Glenelg as a junior.
Also, in a situation similar to that of Sean Darcy at Freo, Tim English becomes a free agent after the 2024 season. Looking like the AA ruck at this point of the season, the Dogs and English should be having a serious discussion as to his plans for the future. I don’t like being a panic merchant, but I’d rather deal with a year left than watch a bloke walk for nothing.
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