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The dozen best deals done during the AFL post-season

Jake Stringer training with his new club. Essendon gave up two second-round draft picks for the former All-Australian Bulldog. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The dozen best deals done during the AFL post-season

Bede Briscomb    

What an interesting AFL off-season it has been. And after two months of trades, free agency signings and drafting, all clubs will be lodging their final lists for 2018 season on Wednesday.

We’ve decided to have a crack at assessing the best-value deals during that whirlwind, the measuring stick for each club the asset that was received versus the asset given away.

We’re talking trades, delisted free agents, national, pre-season and rookie drafts here, though I have excluded free agency from this list, as with player contracts not public, an informed assessment of the asset the club gave up for a particular free agent is difficult.

It’s all subjective, of course, but an interesting exercise. Of course, if you don’t agree with any points on this list, please feel to leave a comment below, or you can tweet me @bedebriscomb. So here we go…

No.12 – CARLTON SELECTS JARROD GARLETT (with pick 78 in the national draft).
The Blues couldn’t score last year. Garlett will help with that; he immediately adds quickness, defensive pressure and magic around goals, and at just 21, there is still plenty of room for him to progress into a more consistent player up the ground. To get such an asset at the end of the draft is a big win.

No.11 – FREMANTLE RECEIVES NATHAN WILSON AND PICK 71 (from GWS in exchange for pick 57 and a future second-round pick).
When you factor in consistency and performances in big games, Nathan Wilson and Lachie Weller (who the Dockers let go) are probably equal in terms of impact right now. Weller will comfortably separate himself from Wilson over time, but that doesn’t mean Wilson won’t be damaging for Freo. The 24-year-old is very clean by foot and having played with Heath Shaw and Zac Williams, he knows where to go to the find the ball.

No.10 – CARLTON RECEIVES PICKS 10 AND 16 (plus pick 73 and a future second-round pick from Adelaide in exchange for Bryce Gibbs, pick 77 and a future second and third-round pick).
American football executive Michael Lombardi once said, “In the NFL, the only players you want to trade are the ones you know you’re going to lose in free agency.” The same is true in footy; Gibbs said he was going to go, so to nab two first-rounders that, on average, will turn out to be in your best 8-16 one day, is a smart move.

No.9 – HAWTHORN SELECTS DYLAN MOORE (with pick 67 in the national draft).
Moore had no business slipping past the third round on draft night. The Eastern Ranges prospect averaged 26 disposals, six tackles and a goal playing predominantly as a small forward in the TAC Cup. He also won the two-kilometre time trial in about six minutes at the draft combine and his work rate is “already AFL standard”, according to Eastern Ranges talent manager Len Villani. So why did he slip? The same reason Lachie Neale fell to pick 58 and Dayne Zorko was overlooked completely – too small. Regardless, the Hawks should be happy with Moore as an eventual full-time ball-winner in three or four years.

No.8 – PORT ADELAIDE RECEIVES JACK WATTS (from Melbourne in exchange for pick 31).
Jack Watts is a good footballer and at times a very good footballer, and despite getting dropped this year, his first half of the season was quite productive, averaging 16 disposals, five marks and almost two goals. The 26-year-old provides immediate support to a forward line that was overly reliant on Robbie Gray, and his lead-up presence may allow coach Ken Hinkley to play Chad Wingard in a more dangerous role closer to goal.

No.7 – CARLTON SELECTS CAM O’SHEA (with pick 1 in the pre-season draft).
As a Northern Bullant, O’Shea averaged 23 disposals and 91 Champion Data ranking points. Throughout 2013 and 2014, the defender averaged 18 disposals (ten kicks), five marks and almost three tackles a game for Port Adelaide. While that is nowhere close to the production of recently injured Sam Docherty, it is a serviceable stop-gap option to hold the fort until Docherty recovers. And at only 25, O’Shea’s best footy is still in front of him.

No.6 – ADELAIDE RECEIVES PICK 12 (from Brisbane in exchange for Charlie Cameron).
Presented without comment: Charlie Cameron in 2017 (24 games): 14 disposals, 1 goal, 4 tackles. James Harmes (Melbourne) in 2017 (17 games): 17 disposals, 1 goal, 3 tackles. Actually, I will comment. Are we sure Charlie Cameron is good? He was playing in the competition’s best forward line and alongside the best small forward in the game, so he always got the weakest defender, and his production was pretty milquetoast. Well, milquetoast for a person who apparently commands pick 12 in the draft. I (sort of) get why Brisbane pulled the trigger, but if I’m Adelaide, I would be thrilled to sell Cameron at much higher value than he is worth for a pick that ended up being Darcy Fogarty, a home-grown kid who was touted as the No.1 pick to the start the year and whose potential quadruples Cameron’s.

No.5 – BRISBANE RECEIVES LUKE HODGE (plus pick 44 from Hawthorn in exchange for pick 43 and 75).
Over the past miserable decade-and-a-bit at Brisbane since the salad days of those three premierships and four grand finals in a row, the club has had a lot of talented players and also been led by some smart coaches who are now succeeding at other clubs. So what was their problem? The culture. They were losers, they knew they were losers, and they had different ideas on what it meant to be successful. Enter four-time premiership player Luke Hodge, not only still one of the leading half-backs in the AFL, but one of the great captains of all-time. He will instil in the young Lions the importance of having one mission, one set of universally-shared ideas and complete unity across the entire organisation. Not bad for a couple of late picks.

No.4 – RICHMOND SELECTS JACK HIGGINS (with pick 17 in the national draft).
Mosquito fleet? No, Higgins is actually better than that. You want the ball in his hands as much as possible. The Oakleigh Charger is an incredibly smart footballer who uses it well and tackles often. His game won’t have the maturity to do that consistently from the get-go, but I project Higgins’ highest point to be 70 per cent of the 2017 version Dayne Zorko. If that does happen, then the Tigers have a steal.

No.3 – NORTH MELBOURNE SELECTS LUKE DAVIES-UNIACKE (with pick 4 in the national draft).
As a keen draft watcher, I chuckled when the Kangaroos tossed away their chances of the No.1 pick to win a meaningless game against Brisbane. But they ended up with “LDU”, my second favourite player in the draft and a guy I’m confident will be an All-Australian one day. Davies-Uniacke is tall, well built, skilful, possesses quick lateral movement and his body-on-body work, especially in the forward line, is the one of best from this year’s draft group. The only downside (or upside?) is hearing Brian Taylor say “DAVVVIIIEESSS-UNNIAACKKKEEEE” 423 times a season.

No.2 – ESSENDON RECEIVES JAKE STRINGER (from Western Bulldogs in exchange for picks 25 and 30).
Here’s a list of the players select at pick 25 and 30 in the last five years: 2016 – Ben Long, Sam McLarty; 2015 – Josh Dunkley, Mason Redman; 2014 – Daniel Nielsen, Brayden Maynard; 2013 – Daniel McStay, Trent Dumont; 2012 – Spencer White, Mason Shaw. Enough said. Stringer has issues, but he is still very young. You have to back in your club’s culture and coaching team to straighten up the off-field stuff. At the end of the day, All-Australian premiership players under the age of 24 are almost never available, and if they are, you have to blow half of your salary cap to get them in. As the great Warren Buffet always says: “Be greedy when others are fearful”. That’s what the Bombers did, and they will reap the rewards. And what’s the worst-case scenario, they pass on the next Trent Dumont? Big deal.

No.1 – FREMANTLE RECEIVES PICK 2 (from Gold Coast, in exchange for Lachie Weller and pick 41).
The Art of the Deal, by Ross Lyon:
Lachie Weller: I want a trade to Gold Coast.
Gold Coast: Lachie wants to play for us. He’s inconsistent but got nice upside, so we’ll trade a few second-rounders.
Ross Lyon: Pick 2.
Gold Coast: He finished behind Shane Kersten in your best and fairest. How about the pick we get for Ablett?
Ross Lyon: Pick 2.
Lachie Weller’s manager: Ross, the man is walking in 12 months. Trade him or you get nothing.
Gold Coast: Yeah, c’mon Ross.
Ross Lyon: Pick 2.
Lachie Weller: Guys, it would be tough if I had to come back to Freo after all this
Gold Coast: You hear that Ross? Let’s get a deal done.
Ross Lyon: Pick 2.
Gold Coast: We are not giving you pick 2. You will get nothing if you don’t accept a deal.
Ross Lyon: Pick 2
Gold Coast: Deal.
With Andrew Brayshaw (the eventual player drafted at pick 2), Fremantle secured a promising piece to pair alongside Nat Fyfe, Connor Blakely and Lachie Neale. Not a bad return for a bloke who was out the door anyway. As for the Suns, I could write a 10,000-word essay on an amazing seven-year stretch of uncompromising incompetence, but for now I’ll just wish them luck and plead that their bad juju doesn’t ruin Ben Ainsworth.

  1. No mention of Lever to Melbourne? Or was it not enough of a “steal”?
    Great Ross Lyon deal talk though!

  2. Jack Higgins will be a ripper, apparently highest ranked by champion data in 2017 in the u18s, is that correct, read he had 15 tackles in one game for Oak Chargers.

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