Even in Grand Final week, a massive trade bombshell can steal the back page.
So with 16 clubs out of the running, and even one of the sides still in the flag race talking trades, it’s fair to say things are heating up.
Here’s the state of play on some of the AFL’s biggest trade targets before free agency begins on October 30, with the trade period to start on November 4.
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BEN BROWN (Out of contract)
With the other two big-name forwards picking their preferred new homes – Cameron to Geelong and Daniher to Brisbane – now teams will really start considering Brown, who kicked 60+ goals every season between 2017 and 2019 but had a down and injury-interrupted 2020. It means the soon-to-be 28-year-old, who turned down a three-year deal (with a trigger for a fourth) on close to $850,000 a season at the start of this year, won’t be worth much more than an early second-round pick in a trade. A number of clubs have been linked to the Kangaroo, including St Kilda, Melbourne, Collingwood, Essendon and Fremantle. He could be an ideal partner for Max King at the Saints, or a Tom McDonald replacement at the Demons, and they’re likely the leading contenders. But don’t count out the Magpies after they missed out on Cameron – especially if they open up cap space by offloading Treloar or De Goey – nor the Bombers, assuming Daniher leaves.
JEREMY CAMERON (Free agent)
For most of the year his management were only dealing with GWS – but things took a dramatic turn on Monday evening, when the club revealed Cameron had asked to explore his restricted free agency options. The 2019 Coleman medallist wants to play for Geelong next year, after a gap between what the Giants were offering (reportedly $700-750k a year) and what Cameron’s camp thinks he’s worth emerged. GWS said it tabled what it thought was “a suitable offer” for the 171-game, 427-goal star. Collingwood is also interested and charged late, but the 27-year-old from southwest Victoria wants to be closer to home – despite the hopes of Essendon fans, they don’t count as closer. Geelong has three first-round picks, currently 11, 13 and 18, which could be used in a trade, though Foxfooty.com.au’s Tom Morris reported the Giants want players too – Esava Ratugolea and Sam Simpson loom as the most likely names. Don’t be shocked if the Giants become the first team to match a restricted free agent offer, by the way.
AIDAN CORR (Free agent)
This one is a bit simpler than the move for his teammate Cameron. North Melbourne will add the 26-year-old Corr as a restricted free agent, on a deal reportedly lasting around five years and worth up to $3 million. That’s good news for the Giants, since there’s every chance they’ll get an end-of-first-round compensation pick for the defender.
BRAD CROUCH (Free agent)
He’s seemed set to leave Adelaide for some time – the Crows will be happy to let him walk if he’s going to sign a large enough deal that they’ll get a first-round compensation pick, because that would be Pick 2. But it’s unclear exactly where he’ll go. Geelong has been the leading contender but now they’re in line to get Jeremy Cameron as well as Shaun Higgins, and potentially Isaac Smith as a free agent. They surely can’t all fit into the Cats’ salary cap which could leave Crouch with one less option. The early morning incident where he and teammate Tyson Stengle were caught with cocaine wasn’t ideal timing either. Don’t count out Port Adelaide, and Richmond was named as a dark horse contender a few weeks ago, though they wouldn’t be paying as much. Geelong still makes the most sense, especially if they miss out on one of the other players they’ve been linked to, or trade out players and gain some cap room in the Cameron deal.
JOE DANIHER (Free agent)
It feels like this will be a lot easier than last year. Daniher wants to join Brisbane, partially thanks to their medical team – which he has a prior connection to – and now it’s about the size of the deal on offer. If it’s big enough, Essendon would receive a first-round compensation pick, which would fall at Pick 7. That might be good enough to let the key forward walk, though the Bombers have reportedly asked about some gun players as well. If the compo comes in as an end-of-first-round pick, a trade would be very likely, especially since Brisbane has two end-of-first-round picks – 16 and 17 – in its pocket to trade away. In a sense, all parties might prefer a larger contract offer because the situation would be simpler, though the Lions have done well not to overpay players in their recent list build. How does this sound: Brisbane uses its two first-rounders to get a top 10 pick and throws in a future pick swap?
JORDAN DE GOEY (Out of contract)
De Goey’s future was placed firmly on the table when Nathan Buckley flagged in his post-semi-final press conference the forward is after the best deal possible, wherever that may be. But having reportedly asked for $1 million a year – a high price even before a possible reduction in the salary cap due to the pandemic – he hasn’t found many takers. Carlton and Essendon were both linked to him but aren’t interested, and certainly not at that price, and the question now is simply whether Collingwood can work out a suitable deal for him. Right now, it would be a surprise if he went – though if the club is willing to consider off-loading Adam Treloar for cap reasons, it could do the same thing with De Goey. He is due to face court on October 30 over a charge of sexual assault dating back to 2015.
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ORAZIO FANTASIA (Contracted)
He nearly made the move back home to South Australia last year, but pulled out of talks late in the trade period. This time it’ll happen, despite having one year to go on his Essendon contract. Nine News Adelaide reported on Monday evening Fantasia will meet with Port Adelaide in the coming weeks, and that his preference is to join them – which you can understand given they just made a preliminary final, while Adelaide claimed the spoon. The problem for the Bombers is the Power don’t have their first-round pick. Would their first selection, pick 26, get it done?
SHAUN HIGGINS (Contracted)
Even with Geelong now linked to four big name recruits – Jeremy Cameron, Brad Crouch, Isaac Smith and Higgins – it appears very likely the Kangaroo will still make his way down the highway. The 32-year-old was close to joining the Cats for this season, but ended up signing a two-year deal to stay at North Melbourne. With the Kangaroos now very clearly rebuilding, all parties seem happy to let Higgins finish up in his hometown. He can fill the role left by Gary Ablett’s retirement and will likely sign a two-year deal once traded. A second-round pick might be enough given his age.
ZACH MERRETT (Contracted)
Merrett was first mentioned as part of the 2020 class of ‘pre-agents’ – the players who gain interest a year before they become free agents, so that clubs can theoretically trade them out and get more value (if they’re going to leave anyway). Essendon’s new president Paul Brasher has categorically denied Merrett wants out, and it would be a massive surprise if he left this year, but with unrest at Tullamarine over a disappointing season, it’s not impossible. Collingwood is keen and if Merrett was convinced to leave, the Bombers would be asking for a very high price in a trade – likely repeating the Daniher situation from last year.
ADAM SAAD (Out of contract)
The Bombers aren’t thrilled with this one, and already they appear to be driving a hard bargain with Carlton. Saad weighed up his options and in the end, concerns around Essendon’s culture and chances of immediate success contributed to his call to walk to a rival. The five-year deal worth at least $3 million was about the same as what Essendon had on the table. But he’ll need to be traded, which is where the difficulty comes in. Carlton has picks 7 and 27, but Essendon reportedly asked for one of Charlie Curnow, Harry McKay or Sam Walsh in return for Saad. That won’t happen – but there’s nothing wrong with starting high in a negotiation. The problem is Saad could still get to Carlton through the pre-season draft, like Jack Martin did from Gold Coast last year. The clubs picking before the Blues would be unlikely to select him (which they’d be allowed to do) without first talking to him and completing a medical.
ISAAC SMITH (Free agent)
It’s up to the triple premiership Hawk where he wants to finish his career. Melbourne has put the longest deal on the table for the 31-year-old, according to Foxfooty.com.au ’s Tom Morris, while Geelong and Hawthorn have offered two-year deals. Smith is an unrestricted free agent and the Hawks would receive compensation for him, dictated by the size of the contract he signs. It wouldn’t be more than a second-round pick.
ADAM TRELOAR (Contracted)
This one started as a story that was mostly about Treloar and his partner, netballer Kim Ravaillion, being willing to make a sacrifice and live separately while they chased their respective careers. Speculation began about the Magpies midfielder when it emerged she would be heading to Queensland in 2021. But there’s a real footy element now. Foxfooty.com.au’s Tom Morris reported last week Treloar and the club were on the brink of a stand-off, with the player wanting security for his future and stating publicly he wants to stay. But Treloar thinks Collingwood wants him to leave, off-loading his salary which was back-loaded into 2021, as part of their manouvers through a tight cap. Treloar moved from GWS in order to be close to his family in the first place, so if he did go, he’d likely only be keen on another Victorian club. Watch this space.
ZAC WILLIAMS (Free agent)
This was one of the first big moves of the off-season and it’ll be one of the easiest. Williams wants to join Carlton on a five-year deal worth around $850,000 to $900,000 a season. He’s a restricted free agent, so GWS can match the deal, but realistically with their salary cap and Williams’ clear interest in the move, they won’t. Plus, the Giants would likely receive a first-round pick in compensation, which is a relatively good return anyway.