Wreck it Ralph: Top trade and free agency targets on offer

A former No.3 draft pick who can’t crack his team’s best 22 is always going to attract attention from rival clubs, but there’s a problem for Carlton free agent Paddy Dow.

It is bunkum to suggest Essendon would have been better off missing the finals in Ben Rutten’s first season.

For a club so starved of success the late charge — with five wins in the final seven games before another finals wipe-out — was valuable on multiple fronts.

It showed the game plan can stack up, it insulated Ben Rutten from some of the pressure he is already subjected to now and it gave them a chance to break that ridiculously long finals winning drought.

But there is always a cost, which could involve a summer of complacency and definitely involves the club’s draft order.

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The Bombers drafted Ben Hobbs with their first selection last year. Picture: Michael Klein
The Bombers drafted Ben Hobbs with their first selection last year. Picture: Michael Klein

Essendon slipped to pick 13 and took another clever classy six-foot midfielder in Ben Hobbs – a position in which it is already so well-stocked.

Richmond took its lick of the draft ice cream and at pick 9 took Josh Gibcus, a 196cm intercept defender who already looks a 200-gamer in the making.

A pick earlier Fremantle snaffled Jye Amiss, a 196cm deadeye key forward from East Perth who is already exciting the Dockers faithful with his early potential.

He’s probably a 12 months away from being ready for AFL action but if Rory Lobb heads east next year, the Dockers will have put a full year of development into him as an investment.

Essendon is so bad right now even last year’s success stories are playing VFL, with 2021 revelation Nick Hind dropped this week after six mediocre games.

Rival midfields know they can bash up Essendon’s smallish on-ball brigade, dominate stoppages and stifle any attacking flow Ben Rutten’s mob hopes to generate.

The Dons have pick 3 in the draft right now and would clearly cash in on one of the stars of the 2022 crop.

But they are one of multiple Victorian clubs that have a significant salary cap hole and would hope to use it like Carlton did with free agent George Hewett.

Not by splashing the cash irresponsibly, but by a targeted acquisition that doesn’t cost the world.

With Devon Smith in the VFL and Dylan Shiel a $900,000 medi-sub the Dons will choose wisely, but the current fate of those two players can’t put them off trying to get better quickly.

Hawthorn, Essendon, North Melbourne and St Kilda are all seen to have enough cap space to get into the free agency or trade market in coming months.

So who are the options out there now, as the 2022 version of Carlton’s Hewett, earning around $450,000 per season on a four-year deal and providing excellent service at the Blues.


Jamie Elliott (Collingwood)

Elliott seriously considered moving to Brisbane before signing his last deal but believed Collingwood’s medical team would keep him on the park.

He’s been dead unlucky since then – breaking his leg last year and then fracturing his AC joint this year.

That’s clearly not on the medical staff, but a suitor would clearly want to run their eye over his body given he turns 30 in August.

Would a rival offer up three years at $500,000 if they wanted a buzzy small forward equally adept at leading from the square or playing as a centre bounce onballer?

The list of players who can do that in the comp is extremely small, with even fewer free agents.

The risk profile is the issue but he’s one of the few quality free agents on the market.

Could Jamie Elliott provide another club with some forward spark? Picture: Michael Klein
Could Jamie Elliott provide another club with some forward spark? Picture: Michael Klein

Paddy Dow (Carlton)

When you are a former pick 3 and can’t get into your current side’s midfield there will always be rivals kicking your tyres.

Paddy Dow has racked it up in the VFL averaging 27 touches, 107 SuperCoach points and 8.6 clearances.

Even with Patrick Cripps, Sam Walsh, Matt Kennedy and Adam Cerra missing a game or more each he has only been the unused sub once this year.

Here is the problem – he has kicked at only 47 per cent efficiency, including 31 per cent efficiency last week.

As an inside mid that is often the case but recruiters will watch this space to see how he progresses.


Griffin Logue (Fremantle)

Dockers tall defender Logue was dropped after securing AFL Coaches votes but has been back into the side in the past two weeks.

It opened the door for Victorian suitors keen for lockdown defenders who kick the ball well and have room to improve (he is only 24).

Why would you want to leave the Dockers?

Job security, a long-term contract and the folding stuff.

Essendon, the Western Bulldogs, Collingwood and Richmond are all clubs that would be in the market for that kind of player.

Griffin Logue has found his way back into the Dockers side. Picture: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images
Griffin Logue has found his way back into the Dockers side. Picture: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images

Bailey Dale (Western Bulldogs)

The Dogs have coughed and spluttered but Dale has kept up his spectacular 2021 form.

He is averaging 105 SuperCoach points, 27 possessions, 628 metres gained, 6.6 inside-50s and kicks at 77 per cent efficiency.

He is on record saying he’s not rushing his contract talks, the Dogs have other contract priorities (Tim English, Josh Dunkley, Caleb Daniel, Bailey Smith).

You probably won’t drag him out of Whitten Oval.

But offer the 25-year-old $3 million over five years and it’s at least a conversation.

Under Sam Power’s list management the Dogs don’t overpay and have been saving for some time for this year’s out-of-contract crop.

But few players kick the ball in footy like Dale, so get in front of him with a can’t-refuse offer.

Bailey Dale has gone from strength to strength in 2022. Picture: Michael Klein
Bailey Dale has gone from strength to strength in 2022. Picture: Michael Klein

Daniel McStay (Brisbane)

As an unrestricted free agent being offered $600,000 a season he is ridiculously expensive for a player averaging 1.4 goals per game this year with a career-high season of only 28 goals.

North Melbourne would surely pay him that because who else are they paying and he would be a perfect foil for Nick Larkey.

What we want to know is he could be the No. 1 key forward in a side who would thrive with greater opportunity?

As we await an update on Joe Daniher’s shoulder injury, we might be about to find out.

If Daniher is sidelined with Eric Hipwood still a few weeks away from a return, McStay might have a window of opportunity to show he can be the big dog.

Karl Amon (Port Adelaide)

Victorian teams are going gaga for Amon. Why?

He’s a Victorian. He’s a free agent.

And critically, he’s an unrestricted free agent.

A player good enough to be in the All Australian 40 last year has a funny old profile.

Elite for disposals, clearances, metres gained and pressure yet poor for kicking, which is seen as his strength.

He is kicking at only 52.7 per cent efficiency this year, although his 44 per cent in the Cairns heat this week didn’t help.

St Kilda is in the race and while he turns 27 in August, slotting Amon into your half back line or on a wing is a potential gamechanger.

Victorian teams are going gaga for Karl Amon. Picture: Albert Perez/AFL Photos via Getty Images
Victorian teams are going gaga for Karl Amon. Picture: Albert Perez/AFL Photos via Getty Images

Rory Lobb (Fremantle)

Again the people ask: why the hell would Lobb want to leave the Dockers?

But for whatever reason — another extended contract, his partner’s desire to be in Victoria — he will likely find his way at a third club.

The Dockers aren’t seen to be desperate to keep him given they have Matt Taberner on fire and Amiss coming through the ranks.

You might get him for a second-round pick and a $1.5 million deal over three years.

Consider how much it would help Sam Draper and Peter Wright with their development as a 30-year-old who can play 30 per cent ruck time and still kick 30 goals.

Andrew Gaff (West Coast)

So West Coast’s last charge is finally exposed as folly.

What happens now?

A full-blown rebuild that surely has to involve them trading off some established stars for high draft picks.

This is less a cheap-as-chips investment as a more significant outlay given Gaff has two more seasons on a deal left at over $800,000 a year.

The wing position has never been more important, he is yet to turn 30, he is remarkably durable and he racks up the footy in elite numbers.

Does he hurt teams enough? It’s an open question, but West Coast needs to ask the same question Hawthorn did last year of its list build.

How do we fast-track our build by trading out plus-28 types who won’t be in the next flag build for early picks?

Jack Darling and Elliot Yeo and Jeremy McGovern and Gaff should all be players open to a move if it benefits the club.

Jack Gunston has made a strong return from injury. Picture: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
Jack Gunston has made a strong return from injury. Picture: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images


Jack Gunston (Hawthorn)

Gunston was potentially available to a rival suitor if they were interested last year but his multiple back surgeries put them off.

He has 12 goals in seven games but he’s 31 in October.

He’s probably got 30 good games left in him after this year but could it be at a premiership contender?

No reason for him to move if not for a team that can win the flag.

Geelong gave up pick 30 for Shaun Higgins.

The Dogs probably don’t have the cap space, the Pies probably aren’t close enough to a flag to consider it.

Originally published as Wreck it Ralph: Top trade and free agency targets on offer

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