AFL trade news 2022: All the latest in trades, free agency and player contracts

Gold Coast has made its offer to Izak Rankine — and it’s well short of what he can get elsewhere. Jon Ralph on why the Suns won’t budge as the Crows get busy.

As recently as 10 days ago Gold Coast believed they had their man.

Izak Rankine’s contract was effectively signed and sealed, the only real sticking point whether he signed on for two years or an extended deal of up to four seasons.

Essendon had given it their best shot — up to $800,000 on a long-term deal — and Rankine had made it clear he wasn’t leaving.

Heck, why would he when he had only months back bought a house just minutes from Metricon Stadium?

When his partner was enjoying Gold Coast life after a summer move north, and he was playing the best football of his career.

Suns superstar Izak Rankine has been linked to the Adelaide Crows in a stunning development.
Suns superstar Izak Rankine has been linked to the Adelaide Crows in a stunning development.

Especially when he loved his coach Stuart Dew and the culture being built around this young group of Gold Coast kids.

These past 10 days have been discomforting and strange and perplexing for the Suns, who fear Rankine might be drifting away from them just when club and player had turned a corner.

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Essendon’s cash didn’t turn Rankine’s head but the Adelaide offer as revealed by the Herald Sun’s Marc McGowan in the realm of $800,000 a year over five seasons — somehow has done exactly that.

He isn’t gone but he has a huge decision to make on heading back to South Australia.

Despite the clear best course of action signing a new deal to remain at the club that has done so much for his professionalism and maturity.

Has Izak Rankine had a change of heart? Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images
Has Izak Rankine had a change of heart? Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

As the Suns would concede, if they were Tom Lynch and Steven May they would have left too given the turbulence at Gold Coast in previous seasons.

So many of their departures have been own goals by the club.

But this seems strange and unusual punishment for a club that has made tangible gains in culture and welfare and on-field achievement.

Their offer is around $650,000 a season with the club emphatic it will not match that $800,000 offer after overpaying so often before to retain talent at almost any cost.

That kind of offer would be financially irresponsible and see him paid well in excess of the game’s elite small forwards including Shai Bolton, Kysaiah Pickett, Tom Papley and Luke Breust.

Rankine is believed to have a complicated relationship with family members back in Adelaide.
Rankine is believed to have a complicated relationship with family members back in Adelaide.
With three weeks left in Gold Coast’s most successful season there is still hope Rankine might stay.
With three weeks left in Gold Coast’s most successful season there is still hope Rankine might stay.

Rankine has a complicated relationship with family members back in Adelaide, and has thrived this past year without some of the distractions that would be present back in SA.

People close to him have advised him that returning to Adelaide — with the spotlight and family dynamics — would not be in his best interests.

His management company W Sports represents both Eddie Betts and Tyson Stengle, with both players’ experiences with the Adelaide Football Club decidedly mixed.

Rankine’s manager Dimi Parhas recently told senior Suns staff including coach Stuart Dew he would not move another indigenous player back to Adelaide given his recent experiences.

Adelaide is a different club to the one that held the 2018 camp but Taylor Walker’s racist comments are still fresh in the mind of many.

And yet in a week where Betts’ experiences have been laid bare the Suns can scarcely believe they might lose Rankine to the Crows.

With three weeks left in the club’s most successful season there is still hope Rankine might stay, might still be convinced they provide the best climate for him to maximise his wondrous gifts.

They see him in a wonderfully exciting forward line with Ben King, Mabior Chol, Joel Jeffrey, Mal Rosas and Levi Casboult.

A club that has so many hard-running elite young mids needs a rock star, and Rankine is their man.

Rankine would be a huge hammer blow to the Suns if he did depart.
Rankine would be a huge hammer blow to the Suns if he did depart.

The path towards a successful trade would prove especially rocky given Gold Coast would want the world in draft picks — not established players — with Rankine irreplaceable anyway from a talent standpoint.

The days of lucrative AFL ambassadorships have dried up, so the AFL won’t be helping retain Rankine either.

Contrast Gold Coast with Carlton — two teams with a mediocre past decade — where the Suns have been rightfully been punished with a player exodus and yet the Blues have barely lost a required player.

And yet added Adam Saad, Adam Cerra, Zac Williams, Marc Pittonet, Sam Docherty, George Hewett, Jack Martin, Caleb Marchbank and so many others from rival clubs.

Gold Coast once had a mediocre football club and so deserved whatever it got and yet how can it ever hope to challenge for a flag if even players like Rankine find a way to leave this rapidly improving AFL expansion club?

Trade twist: Stealth mission leaves Crows in box seat

Adelaide’s bold bid to bring Gold Coast wizard Izak Rankine home is set to pay off, with the Crows increasingly confident he will request a trade there.

News Corp revealed on Tuesday that Adelaide was making a major play for the 22-year-old forward, who most in the industry expected to re-sign at the vastly improved Suns.

It’s believed the Crows have tabled a lucrative five-year offer worth as much as $800,000 per season to Rankine, who has kicked 27 goals in 16 games in a career-best campaign.

He was the No. 3 pick in the 2018 AFL draft, selected behind Carlton’s Sam Walsh and Gold Coast teammate Jack Lukosius.

The Crows are confident of securing Izak Rankine. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images
The Crows are confident of securing Izak Rankine. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Adelaide conducted negotiations mostly by stealth, a surprising development given the years of expectation that the South Australian clubs would try to lure Rankine and Lukosius back to their home state.

The fact the Crows’ pitch went under the radar for so long is evidence of how convinced almost everyone was that Rankine would follow Lukosius’ lead and extend his stay on the glitter strip.

Eddie Betts’ revelations this week about Adelaide’s infamous camp are unlikely to impact the situation, given he and Rankine are represented by the same management group, W Sports and Media.

There won’t be an announcement from the Rankine camp until after Gold Coast’s season ends but all indications are he will be a Crow next year unless he has a dramatic late change of heart.

That scenario would set the stage for a fierce negotiation between the list management teams at Adelaide and the Suns on the out-of-contract young gun’s value.

After scintillating early glimpses, Rankine struggled with inconsistency and was even dropped late last season but is delivering on his promise in his fourth season at AFL level.

Rankine has had a breakout season for the Suns. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images.
Rankine has had a breakout season for the Suns. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images.

The West Adelaide product’s pedigree and performance would suggest he is worth a first-round draft pick – and maybe more – but his contract status means the Crows could march him to the pre-season draft.

Rankine would be rebuilding Adelaide’s second trade coup in as many years after securing another South Australian, Jordan Dawson, from Sydney.

The Swans received a future first-round pick tied to Melbourne, currently No. 17 overall, for Dawson, which Sydney football boss Charlie Gardiner said afterwards did not reflect his “true value”.

The Crows threatened to select Dawson in the pre-season draft during some tense discussions with the Swans.

Gold Coast has experience in that regard, with Jack Martin departing to Carlton with no compensation after the Suns chose to make a stand when the Blues’ offer didn’t satisfy them.

Carlton heavily frontended Martin’s deal to ward off other teams, including Melbourne, from taking him in the pre-season draft.

Bolton prepared to shirk free agency

—Jon Ralph

Richmond star Shai Bolton is prepared to sign a new contract in coming months that would see him sacrifice his future free agency rights and remain at Punt Road long-term.

But those talks might require the Tigers to hand over nearly a million dollars a season given his extraordinary potential and marketing power.

The brilliant 23-year-old is happy at Richmond and contracted through to the end of 2023 on a deal worth just over $600,000 a season.

Richmond has had early talks with his new manager Anthony Van Der Wielen after he moved across to his stable of former South Fremantle players including Tim Kelly, Marlion Pickett and recently retired Tiger Matt Parker.

Shai Bolton continues to raise the bar with his stunning form this year. Picture: Mark Stewart
Shai Bolton continues to raise the bar with his stunning form this year. Picture: Mark Stewart

Van Der Wielen confirmed to the Herald Sun he was open to a new deal for Bolton but his immediate focus was a strong finish to a season where Tigers can still play finals.

The expected timeline for that new deal will be through summer when both parties can get a more accurate gauge of his worth.

“We are very comfortable where things lie at Richmond at the moment. He’s contracted until the end of 2023, Van Der Wielen said.

“I’m in regular contact with Blair Hartley. When Richmond and Shai feel it’s appropriate we will begin negotiations.

“I’m not sure exactly when that will be but it’s not what we are focused on right at this moment.”

The WA product could write his own cheque if he decided to return home but has been well supported by the Tigers and believes his potential is being maximised under Damien Hardwick.

The Tigers will recontract Pickett after excellent form this year, but have plenty on their plate in coming months including decisions on Trent Cotchin, Jack Riewoldt and Shane Edwards.

Any future deal could see Bolton command seven figures given his extraordinary potential and marketing power.
Any future deal could see Bolton command seven figures given his extraordinary potential and marketing power.

The Tigers are also well into a chase for an experienced midfielder like one of GWS pair Jacob Hopper or Tim Taranto given they have their own first-round pick and the Roos’ second round selection at pick 19.

Richmond is also on track to recontract talented utility Sydney Stack despite a year in which he has played only two AFL games, one of them as the unused sub.

Stack, who broke his cheekbone last month, has made significant gains in his professionalism and while he would have rival suitors the 22-year-old will be at Punt Road next year.

Richmond is also on track to recontract talented utility Sydney Stack despite a year in which he has played only two AFL games.
Richmond is also on track to recontract talented utility Sydney Stack despite a year in which he has played only two AFL games.

Talks on Bolton’s deal will be picked up after those list and trade discussions but he is keen to be contracted again before next season starts – subject to a fair deal.

He would only be a free agent at the end of 2024 but a long-term deal would take him well past that date and deep into his 20s.

Senior Tigers advisor Neil Balme said Bolton was on the verge of becoming the “best player in the competition”.

Balme said should the 23-year-old find the consistency that is the mark of the truly great players he could be “hard to stop”.

“I say, to myself, if he actually played consistently, he’s nearly the best player in the comp,” Balme said on RSN.

“He does play reasonable consistently, but so much of it is that natural brilliance. Part of the challenge of being a greatplayer is doing it consistently and that’s still his test.

“Can you imagine if he did play at his absolute maximum all the time, he’d be hard to stop.”

Champion Data rates Bolton as the most impactful player in the AFL with 45 per cent of his disposals part of a scoring chain, streets ahead of Marcus Bontempelli.

Champion Data rates Bolton as the most impactful player in the AFL with 45 per cent of his disposals part of a scoring chain.
Champion Data rates Bolton as the most impactful player in the AFL with 45 per cent of his disposals part of a scoring chain.

He is the No. 1 ranked mid-forward for goals and score involvements.

In 2024 in what would be the first year of a new deal the Tigers will have Dustin Martin in the last year of his existing $1.3 million-a-season deal and Tom Lynch earning over $1 million as part of his back-ended deal.

But with Trent Cotchin and Jack Riewoldt retired by then they could afford his salary in a year three players were on nearly seven figures or back-end the deal into later seasons.

The Tigers would be aware the longer they left his negotiations in the final season of his contract the more they might have to pay him.

Dustin Martin was keen to be recontracted in 2016 but instead as talks dragged out he was eventually paid $1.3 million after signing on the verge of the finals in a year he won the Brownlow Medal, MVP, Norm Smith and Richmond best-and-fairest.

Bolton has kicked 35.34 this year as well as 13 complete misses but is a superb kick who will only improve his accuracy.

Richmond’s classy manner in which they handled Parker’s return home to WA — he and his partner have three children four years and under and he was not in senior selection contention — has only reinforced to Van Der Wielen that Bolton is in good hands.

Originally published as AFL trade news 2022: All the latest in trades, free agency and player contracts

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