Moneyball: All the latest AFL trade, draft and free agency news

Mason Redman’s stunning emergence at Essendon has him in line for a hefty pay rise at the end of next season. What should the Bombers pay him?

The Suns could swoop on Dyson Heppell if the Dons can’t get a deal done with their captain. Picture: Michael Klein
The Suns could swoop on Dyson Heppell if the Dons can’t get a deal done with their captain. Picture: Michael Klein

Gun Essendon defender Mason Redman looks set for a significant pay rise on his next deal in reward for a career-best season.

The dashing half back has been one of the Bombers’ best players and one of the league’s most improved players this season, helping rebound the ball out of the back half.

It is fine timing for the 24-year-old who is out of contract next year when he qualifies for free agency at the end of his eighth season.

It means the South Australian will be an obvious target for rivals, especially if he qualifies for unrestricted free agency which means the Bombers would be unable to match a bid.

Industry sources say Redman could be worth north of $600,000 per season, especially if he can produce a season in the realm of what he has done in 2022.

Red-hot Mason Redman has played his way into a hefty pay rise. Picture: Getty Images
Red-hot Mason Redman has played his way into a hefty pay rise. Picture: Getty Images

To thwart any threat from rivals from across the SA border, Essendon is expected to move early on a new contract extension to keep Redman at Tullamarine.

As part of the new deal, a decent pay rise is in order as Redman has emerged as a key cog for Essendon averaging 22 disposals a game in 2022.

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The man taken with pick No. 30 in the 2015 national draft is expected to finish high up in the club’s best and fairest count this year after missing the top-10 last year.

Francis on the way out?

Essendon is prepared to offer Aaron Francis another contract but he is almost certainly on the move given rival interest.

Adelaide-based teams have always looked on with interest and while the 25-year-old has only played four AFL games clubs the Dons would be more open to a trade than allowing him to move to a rival for nothing.

Taken in the 2015 national draft at pick 6, he is yet to live up to his potential.

But even if the Dons traded him for a later pick it would help them pick up points as they attempt to secure both of Alwyn Davey’s sons in father-son selections.

No word yet on the future of James Hird’s son, a category B rookie who has played 16 VFL games in his second season averaging 14.8 possessions and 64 ranking points.

Rivals are set to woo Aaron Francis away from Essendon. Picture: Getty Images
Rivals are set to woo Aaron Francis away from Essendon. Picture: Getty Images

Tigers and Cats set to fight it out for Hopper

Jacob Hopper will find a way to either Richmond or Geelong if Greater Western Sydney allows him to move south as part of their salary cap recalibrations.

The Giants are keen to finally fix their salary cap issues in one season given they are more than $1 million over the cap next year.

Hopper only signed a new deal last year and he has three options — honour his contract at the Giants, head to Richmond or go down the highway.

Geelong has also been interested in Jordan De Goey but list bosses believe St Kilda will offer him the most lucrative deal if they can get board approval.

De Goey is happy at Collingwood but the biggest question of the off-season is whether the Pies will hand him a deal big enough to keep him.

If not, clubs expect St Kilda to land the talented star.

So if Geelong misses on De Goey, having already made clear it expects to be active in the off-season, two power clubs in the Cats and Richmond might butt heads on who can land Hopper.

Club eyes Essendon captain’s experience

Gold Coast has been tracking Dyson Heppell’s form for much of the season and believes he would add leadership as well as some robust defensive traits if he moved up north.

News Corp revealed the Suns’ interest on Sunday given the club’s ACL victims Wil Powell, Connor Budarick and Lachie Weller will only be back late in the 2023 season.

They are keen to secure him if he cannot get a deal done at Essendon but his contract would likely be modest given cap constraints.

Heppell has quietly enjoyed a solid season averaging 90 ranking points and 22.7 disposals and with the Suns’ defence looking thin they believe he is exactly the kind of reliable no-fuss player they could count on.

He potentially adds less frills than an option like Fremantle’s Nathan Wilson but is much more dependable.

The Suns could swoop on Dyson Heppell if the Dons can’t get a deal done with their captain. Picture: Michael Klein
The Suns could swoop on Dyson Heppell if the Dons can’t get a deal done with their captain. Picture: Michael Klein

Essendon hasn’t ruled out improving upon an offer of around $300,000 a year but it isn’t known if it would add on another year to their initial offer.

The Suns are open to retaining Brayden Fiorini despite a backended 2023 contract of nearly $600,000 but he is sure to have rival interest as an inside mid.

Blue rooks set to ink new deals

Lochie O’Brien was on the brink of being delisted when he was demoted to the Carlton rookie list over summer but he is about to cement his future at Ikon Park.

O’Brien is in talks on a two-year contract at the Blues and while a deal is not yet clinched as the two parties haggle on money he will surely stay at Carlton.

The No.10 draft pick has played 16 games as a hard-running wingman where he has been more robust and dependable than in previous seasons.

The Blues are set to re-sign Lochie O’Brien. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images
The Blues are set to re-sign Lochie O’Brien. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

He has followed the same path as midfielder Matt Kennedy, who was also demoted onto the rookie list at one stage but has now signed his own three-year deal.

Carlton had some interest in being active in the trade period but is now committing to going back to the national draft after only three live picks in the past two.

A third rookie in Matthew Cottrell is also playing his way into a new contract after 15 games in 2022.

He has kicked two goals in each of his past two games and averages 15 possessions as a mid-forward who kept Jack Silvagni out of the team in the Adelaide game.

Carlton legend Robert Walls is a big fan saying recently: “There’s a kid in that team who probably is the least known player of all. His name is Matty Cottrell, red-headed kid on the wing. He’s got an enormous tank and I have a feeling that if they keep playing him, he will end up being a 150-game player for them.”

Mason Cox is almost certain to win another deal at Collingwood. Picture: Getty Images
Mason Cox is almost certain to win another deal at Collingwood. Picture: Getty Images

Cox triggered to chase more history

Collingwood’s last-gasp win over Port Adelaide meant more than just a 10th successive victory for Mason Cox, it has also given him a green light to chase some more history.

It was Cox’s 12th game this season, a figure that unlocked a trigger clause in his contract, guaranteeing he will remain a part of the Magpies’ outfit next season.

The big ruck-forward signed a one-year deal last October which included a clause that locked in the 2023 season if he played 12 or more games, which he has now attained.

While Cox has already reached a few historical marker points in his pathway from the US to his new home in Melbourne, next year he will now be eyeing off a 100-game milestone.

No Collingwood player has ever played 100 games in the No.46 jumper.

Cox, 31, had played 88 games since his Anzac Day 2016 debut. He had provided good support to Darcy Cameron throughout the injury absence of Brodie Grundy this year.

Gun forward Cam Zurhaar has put off talks with the Roos. Picture: Getty Images
Gun forward Cam Zurhaar has put off talks with the Roos. Picture: Getty Images

Clarko key to new Zurhaar deal

North Melbourne will be desperate to secure the services of Alastair Clarkson so they can help land a new deal for Cam Zurhaar.

The Herald Sun revealed earlier this year Zurhaar’s talks had been postponed until the off-season.

There are clearly rival suitors for a player who has kicked 30 goals this year but the delay is more likely to have fattened his contract than set him up to leave for another club.

Landing an established coach like Clarkson would clearly help players like Zurhaar decide their football futures.

The club is yet to offer Curtis Taylor a new deal, with the wingman playing every game this year after 19 last season.

Surely he is part of their plans but he is one of a number of players yet to be offered deals despite their excellent form.

Jed states his case for new deal

Six months ago, Jed Anderson’s AFL career was in limbo; now the tough Kangaroos midfielder-forward is strongly pushing his case for a new two-or-three year deal.

In what has been a bleak season for North Melbourne, Anderson has barely missed a beat since returning to the senior side in Round 8.

Has Jed Anderson done enough to sign a multi-year deal? Picture: Getty Images
Has Jed Anderson done enough to sign a multi-year deal? Picture: Getty Images

He missed the club’s pre-season after delaying his second Covid vaccination following an adverse reaction to the first dose, doing his own training up in Darwin across the summer.

He returned to Melbourne in late February and was back playing VFL football in April.

The Kangaroos are in preliminary talks with the 28-year-old about a new deal off the back of his solid form in providing some strength and grunt to the young mix.

Anderson has proven an important player in difficult circumstances since his AFL return.

Champion Data has rated Anderson as above average for a mid-forward in disposals (22.2), contested possessions (8.8), clearances (3.6) and tackles (4.3) in his 12 games this season.

The Kangaroos are on the hunt for a new coach, with Alastair Clarkson in the frame as the leading candidate.

Anderson played three seasons under Clarkson at Hawthorn.

Paddy Ryder plans to play another season. Picture: Getty Images
Paddy Ryder plans to play another season. Picture: Getty Images

Ryder to take back seat to Marshall if Saints get deal done

St Kilda is yet to engage in contract discussions with veteran big man Paddy Ryder, a fortnight since he declared he wanted to play on next year.

The 34-year-old former Bomber and Power star is nursing a calf injury and won’t appear again this season unless the Saints can hang onto eighth spot and return to the finals.

Ryder has played no more than 14 matches in any of his three seasons at Moorabbin but remains impactful when he is on the field, including a three-goal performance in a come-from-behind win over Geelong.

The expectation is he would take more of a back seat to budding star Rowan Marshall if, as expected, he continues into an 18th season.

The Tigers are keen to lock in young gun Noah Cumberland. Picture: Mark Stewart
The Tigers are keen to lock in young gun Noah Cumberland. Picture: Mark Stewart

Tigs Noah young gun when they see Cumberland

Negotiations on a new deal for the AFL’s newest Rising Star nominee, Tiger Noah Cumberland, are set to ramp up in the next week.

Cumberland had a rocky path to a belated senior debut this year, including suffering an ACL setback at training in early 2020, but has illustrated his promise with an excellent past month.

The 21-year-old forward kicked 11 goals in that period, highlighted by five in Richmond’s incredible comeback win over the Lions on Sunday.

That standout effort followed Cumberland’s heartbreaking moment a week earlier, when he played on as the siren sounded instead of taking a set shot that could have spared the Tigers from sharing the points with Fremantle.

His form has been so good he looks set to score a two-year contract as the Tigers introduced more youth into Damien Hardwick’s team.

Irish star Zach Tuohy will add another year to his decorated career. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images
Irish star Zach Tuohy will add another year to his decorated career. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

Cats’ vets to play on

Zach Tuohy will re-sign at the Cats on a one-year deal with Isaac Smith also certain to play on.

All of the Cats’ elder statesmen know the score on their futures but in clubs with a long list of over-30s those decisions are often pushed back out of sensitivity for other players.

Clubs don’t want to announce a new deal for a player when a teammate of his vintage so obviously hasn’t had his future decided yet.

Tom Hawkins made clear last week he was a certainty to play on, and Tuohy has enjoyed another outstanding season averaging 92 ranking points and 22 disposals.

Big Swan’s bounce back

Resurgent Swan Sam Reid is poised to extend his 175-game career into a 14th season, a year after he feared it might all be over.

The 30-year-old had to wait until almost November to receive a contract for 2022 and was set for a defensive shift this season, given the glut of tall forwards on Sydney’s list.

But Reid, fresh from kicking three goals from 18 disposals last weekend, has proven a valuable contributor as a relief ruckman and regular goal kicker.

Sam Reid has a new lease on life in Sydney. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Sam Reid has a new lease on life in Sydney. Picture: Phil Hillyard

He has been so good that the Swans have preferred to use him over pairing specialist ruckmen Tom Hickey and Peter Ladhams, who have been in and out of the side with injury.

They still have decisions to make on out-of-contract ruckmen Sam Naismith and Callum Sinclair.

Naismith, who underwent a third knee reconstruction last year and is sitting out Sydney’s campaign, is back training and serving as a runner on match days but discussions on his future won’t occur until season’s end.

Sinclair, 32, is open to playing on but has appeared at senior level only four times in the past two seasons and not at all this year.

The class of ‘21

Those already acclaiming the 2021 national draft as one of the most fertile in recent years received a boost with the upcoming debut this weekend of Bulldog Sam Darcy.

It means that the top 10 players selected in last year’s draft will have all made their AFL debuts.

Game one for Sam Darcy, last year’s No.2 pick, will be game 360 for the Darcy family as he follows on from his grandfather David (133 games) and father Luke (226 games).

Meanwhile, St Kilda recruiter Chris Liberatore has left Moorabbin to take up a role as NAB League Vic Metro manager.

Will Ashcroft has officially nominated as a Brisbane father-son in this year’s draft. Picture: AFL Photos
Will Ashcroft has officially nominated as a Brisbane father-son in this year’s draft. Picture: AFL Photos

Best kid in the land off the table as Lions eye draft bonanza

—Jon Ralph

Brisbane has secured the services of the year’s best junior talent in Will Ashcroft – and guaranteed his younger brother Levi also joins the club in coming years.

Ashcroft has signed a four-year deal with the Lions to be a father-son and follow in the footsteps of his premiership-winning father Marcus despite strong interest from Melbourne sides.

He was tossing up whether to try his luck with a Victorian side in the open draft, given the family has moved to Melbourne and is enjoying the city, but instead has opted for security.

Ashcroft’s brother Levi starred in the recent Under 16 championships, averaging 122 ranking points and 24 possessions, so will surely join his brother in Brisbane colours in two years as a likely first-rounder.

Sister Lucy is also a potential father-daughter pick, given the 318 games of her father and while she is only in her early teens has an exceptionally bright footballing future.

Just as the Western Bulldogs were able to bring in NGA pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan with the No.1 overall selection, the Lions can compete for a flag safe in the knowledge they have secured a brilliant first-year talent next year.

“I can’t wait to join the Club and start earning the respect of all the players and coaching staff,” Ashcroft said.

“I was lucky enough to do some work with the midfielders last pre-season and I am really looking forward to learning from them and hopefully breaking into that group and seeing what we can become.

“To be following after dad is a privilege and if I can achieve half of what he did then I would be happy. I am also looking forward to forging my own name.”

The other potential pick for the No.1 selection in Victoria’s George Wardlaw has been laid low by a hamstring injury that has seen Ashcroft forge ahead.

The Lions will now be able to wait for a rival to bid on Ashcroft in the national draft where they will match a selection.

Clubs who waited until pick four to bid on Nick Daicos in the 2021 national draft will surely make the Lions match a bid at pick 1.

Levi Ashcroft in action for Vic Metro at the U16 Championships. Picture: Russell Freeman/AFL Photos
Levi Ashcroft in action for Vic Metro at the U16 Championships. Picture: Russell Freeman/AFL Photos
Dad Marcus played 318 games for Brisbane. Picture: David Kapernick
Dad Marcus played 318 games for Brisbane. Picture: David Kapernick

The points they will secure from a compensation pick for departing free agent Dan McStay will help them accumulate enough picks to match the Ashcroft bid.

They also need points if they are to bid on Adrian Fletcher’s son Jaspa, who seems likely to be a first-round or early second-round pick.

Lions football boss Danny Daly said the club was thrilled to have Ashcroft commit.

“Will is one of the most talented young players in the country and to have him choose the Brisbane Lions to start his AFL career is a huge moment for all involved,” Daly said.

“He has impressed at every level he has played at this year, and like our members, we cannot wait for him to pull on a Brisbane Lions jumper.

“Obviously, his father Marcus is a legend of our Club and it’s exciting to see him follow in those footsteps while also making a name for himself.”

Originally published as Moneyball: All the latest AFL trade, draft and free agency news

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