The Winners and Losers of the 2021 Trade Period

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2021 AFL Trade Period

We’re back in AFL off season mode. For some supporter bases, it’s arguably just as exciting as the home and away season. It’s the time where fanbases become optimistic and giddy about their newly traded in players and recent draftees. Picking winners and losers based on players and picks traded is always fraught with danger. Many exclaimed that Carlton’s trade period last year was a roaring success even with the draft capital they gave up. That was before Williams showed up unfit and Saad was completely unwilling to defend and change from his all out attacking game style. Many Essendon fans wouldn’t have even known who Nick Hind was last year, now they can’t stop talking about him. Whilst anyone watched enough Sydney games knew it was a bargain and high upside play, many fans were left wondering why Port would trade for an intercepting defender who struggled to make the best 22 in a non contending side. Now he’s an All Australian. There are a lot of unknowns about who really wins and loses but we’ll do our best to provide our analysis on who’s had a good trade period. It’s worth noting that this was one of the more quiet trade periods in recent years due to reductions in both list sizes and the salary cap. But make no mistake about it – this is a really important period for clubs and helps shape their list not only for next year but into the future.

Winners

Carlton

IN: Cerra, George Hewett, Lewis Young, 2021 3rd Round pick

OUT: Pick 6, Future 3rd Round pick, Pick 52

(Update: Updated to include Sam Petrevski-Seton – who has an opportunity to get a fresh start at a new club but simply didn’t show enough at Carlton)

Any time a team can add a 22 year old midfielder who just finished a year averaging 23 disposals, 5.2 marks (rated elite), 5 inside 50’s (elite) and 407 metres – it’s a big win. Yes, they gave up a bit to get Cerra. But teams draft a pick 6 at they eventuate into a Cerra like player. Cerra is an up and coming star that can help Carlton win now which is exactly what they need. The addition of Cerra is significant for a few reasons. Firstly, Carlton now have a well rounded and somewhat terrifying starting midfield.

These three will compliment each other perfectly. Cerra and Walsh are impactful both on the inside winning their own football and on the outside spread. Many Carlton fans lamented Cripps’ best year (2018) winning a staggering 17.6 contested possessions a game but with no outside talent or ball users to feed it to into space. How things have changed. Carlton now have two of the more damaging outside midfielders in the competition yet Cripps’ inside ball winning ability has decreased dramatically (-5.3 in 2021 compared to 2018). It’s a big year for Cripps with the addition of Cerra and under a new coach. Pressure will be on them again to make finals and Cripps’ leadership will be instrumental with Docherty’s expected absence. Hewett rounds out this midfield group nicely and is a solid defensive midfielder who is smart with his positioning around stoppages. Hewett as a lockdown midfielder is something Carlton have really lacked in the last 2-3 years and haven’t really had a capable one since likely Andrew Carrazzo. Quelling the oppositions best midfielders is important given how easily Carlton allowed opposition teams to score consecutively.

The other benefit of the Cerra addition is that it allows Carlton to settle Williams into a role. He was clearly too unfit to play midfield last year and he is more of a natural half back flanker anyway. Given what Carlton gave up for Williams, they need to start seeing some more consistent football from him. I have no doubt that he’ll rebound this year and provide a dangerous attacking option out of the backline for Carlton. Jones, Weitering, Docherty, Williams and Saad is an incredible defence. Add that to Walsh, Cerra and Cripps with the Coleman medal winner up forward and it’s enough talent on paper that should realistically push Carlton to a finals berth. But talent will only get you so far in the AFL. Carlton once again will be a big topic of conversation heading into 2022.

Adelaide

IN: Jordan Dawson, 2021 Picks 33, 42

OUT: Jake Kelly, Melbourne 1st Round Pick 2022, 2021 Picks 23, 37, 44

If you read FTP this year, you are well aware how highly we rate Jordan Dawson. It’s really flown under the radar but Adelaide came through with the steal of the draft. Not only is Dawson arguably the best kick in the AFL and is quickly becoming one of the best young players in the competition, Adelaide ensured it didn’t impact their draft hand this year. This is super important for a team in the midst of a rebuild – having the immediacy of bringing in a talented first rounder this year as opposed to next (Sydney wanted Adelaide’s Pick 17 this year). It’ll be interesting to see where Adelaide decide to play Dawson considering he can play practically every position (outside of ruck and key positions). He’ll likely settle on the wing where he did serious damage for Sydney using the ball inside 50. Dawson and Scholl on the two wings gives Adelaide two elite ball users on either side of the ground. If their inside midfielders continue to progress and improve as they did this year, Adelaide are going to be a scary proposition. We all saw how capable he can be as an attacking midfielder with his best game of the season against the Dogs amassing 26 disposals and 3 goals.

Jake Kelly’s a loss as an underrated defender. Like most key position players, Kelly is suspect by foot and hurt Adelaide at times with his ball use but his competitiveness couldn’t be questioned. It’s a player Adelaide certainly would have wanted to keep but given the rise of Murray and Butts in the latter part of 2021, it’s a departure that Adelaide should be able cover sufficiently.

Melbourne

IN: Dunstan, 2021 Picks 17, 32, 49

OUT: Picks 33, 45, Future 2022 First round selection

A small win but a win regardless. The premiers signed Luke Dunstan as a DFA. Dunstan has his limitations, namely that he is poor by foot and not overly quick. Yet, he’s an inside bull and showed what he is capable of this year at AFL level. He polled 11 Brownlow votes in 12 games! It’s the perfect midfield depth for a team who has been super lucky with injuries and are due for their luck to change. Internally, Melbourne rate Sparrow and Jordon highly and Dunstan would seemingly be behind both of them currently but I wouldn’t be surprised if Dunstan is in the Round 1 side if Goodwin senses any inkling of a premiership hang over from some of their midfielders.

The other win is Melbourne trading back into the first round this year while giving up their pick for the next year. This is a strategy they’ve implemented a number of times in the last 5-6 years, resulting in Melbourne bringing in young talent a year earlier. The players that Melbourne have drafted using this strategy are either stars of the competition (Oliver), soon to be stars (Pickett) or have shown immediately they are capable at AFL level (Bowey). It’s a smart strategy because it allows Melbourne to draft players a year early and put them in defined groups and build them up together. Melbourne’s list management is starting to be envied by the competition. You only need to look at the players in their grand final side (6 players less than 50 games) to understand that Melbourne have a promising young cohort rising with their already established stars. Melbourne are the team to beat in 2022.

Losers

Hawthorn

IN: Max Lynch, 3rd and 4th Round Picks

OUT: Jonathan Ceglar, Tim O’Brien, Future Picks

For Hawthorn it wasn’t so much the ins and outs but their actions (or inaction?) which may cause long lasting issues for new coach Sam Mitchell. It started with Kennett notifying Hawthorn members in an email that they might be surprised with some of the decisions made in the trade period. While transparency is honourable, Hawthorn don’t owe their members an explanation for their current list management strategy. If their goal was to rebuild this offseason by offloading senior players for picks, they revealed their hand to every other club prematurely. But it didn’t stop there as reports started to surface that Sam Mitchell himself was contacting teams about trading for senior players Hawthorn players. One can only assume names like Tom Mitchell, O’Meara and Wingard, arguably Hawthorn’s 3 best players, were brought up. While Mitchell refuted the claims, it creates an awkward dynamic. None of the three were traded (Wingard definitely would have been if he gave the OK) even though we heard their names brought up countless times

This has the potential to create quite a divide between Sam Mitchell and his core senior players. Coming in as a new coach is hard enough let alone when reports start to circle that the coach is personally talking to other clubs about trading key players. It’s a great recipe to alienate your best players. Whilst this may be reading into it a little too much, it’s clear that Hawthorn are anything but a stable club at the moment. Even when they seem to want to pivot into a rebuild and change the direction of their list, their players stand in the way. The supposed deal with GWS to land Pick 13 (+ a swap of later picks) for Luke Bruest would have been tremendous value for Hawthorn. It’s unclear what they would have received for Wingard but again, the draft capital would have given Hawthorn a big opportunity to begin their rebuild and acquire multiple high draft picks in one season. It wasn’t to be and Hawthorn remain with players like Bruest and Gunston who are still solid, impactful AFL players but don’t make sense for Hawthorn’s long term landscape. Hawthorn have enough young talent, especially in their back half, but they are stuck in between strategies at the moment with no real direction as to whether they are pushing for finals or blooding youth.

I like the addition of Lynch who showed promise in his brief appearances at Collingwood. With McEvoy not getting any younger and Ceglar leaving, Lynch has a great opportunity to cement himself as the number ruck at Hawthorn and it’s a value pick up for Hawthorn.

Richmond

IN: Robbie Tarrant, End of 2nd round compensation pick, future second round picks

OUT: Mabior Chol, Callum Coleman Jones, Future 4th Round Pick, Two third round picks

The Tarrant signing is timely given the retirement of Astbury and should form a scary backline duo with Grimes and Vlaustin. But the loss of Chol and Callum Coleman Jones stings for a team who has limited key forward position depth. Riewoldt’s magnificent career is near the end and Lynch has battled with injuries the last few years. Whilst Jones or Chol aren’t necessarily a significant loss in regards to the short term aspirations of Richmond competing for a flag again next year, the loss of these two will hurt them long term. Key forwards don’t grow on trees and unless you are able to grab one early in the draft, they can be difficult to develop long term. It’s understandable how this happened for Richmond given that both were able to secure longer term deals and likely more money elsewhere. The impact of this trade period won’t be felt right away but may be a significant turning point for a team who may not get back to their contending best and have now just lost two important pieces of their future. Time will tell for Richmond.

Brisbane

IN: Darcy Fort

OUT: 2022 3rd Round Pick

It’s a little harsh given Brisbane’s hands are tied in the kind of moves they can make from a salary cap and pick perspective but Brisbane’s offseason or lack thereof is uninspiring for a team who went out in straight sets in the finals. Brisbane’s list is in a great place and there’s only so much a team can add but Darcy Fort simply doesn’t move the needle. Something that Kane Cornes brought up a few weeks ago which was a surprisingly good point was the lack of offseason activity from the top contending teams. Hardly any of them have gotten better. This is worrying for a team like Brisbane who were well off the mark from the benchmark in 2021. Understandably, Brisbane’s poor finals form was partly due to the injuries to key players who will return next year. But how much can we expect from Cam Rayner after an ACL tear? He is a player that relies on his strength and burst and it’s not unreasonable to expect he will start slow. Hipwood is another one that will be expected to make a comeback but will miss most of next year and may not be the same Hipwood immediately (although progressing ahead of schedule). Brisbane needed to add another key position forward and probably an outside midfielder but did neither during the trade period. Given Brisbane’s contending window is now, the draft is a great opportunity for a long term prospect but not for a player that can be reasonably relied upon in a final. We are by no means ruling out Brisbane next year – they will be good. All of their best players are in their prime. But not improving at all in the offseason perpetuates a state of staleness amongst the group and there are a few teams around the 5-8 range who will be better again next year (Bulldogs, Sydney and Essendon).

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