FREE agency is still relatively new in the AFL, so new in fact, that we could see history unfold this offseason. Currently, there are 11 restricted and 40 unrestricted free agents, with clubs eager to learn where the big names plan on penning a new deal. We are still ages away from the crazy free agency period but now seems like a perfect time to check in with players two months into the season.
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Bachar Houli (Richmond)
WITH 177 games to his name the 30-year old Tiger is unlikely to be going anywhere at year’s end. Fresh off a premiership there isn’t a huge reason for Houli to look at playing elsewhere.
VERDICT: At this stage, I think he’ll sign a short-term extension at the club and look to retire in the next few years.
Rory Sloane (Adelaide)
ARGUABLY the biggest fish in the free agency pool is Crows jet Rory Sloane. There was speculation that Sloane was going to sign before the season got underway, but clearly, that hasn’t happened. Lingering foot issues have held him to just four games in which he is averaging under 20 disposals a game. Even though that’s on track to be Sloane’s lowest per game tally since 2010, potential suitors won’t be scared off. Almost every Victorian club will attempt to lure him home and he could very well opt to leave Adelaide.
VERDICT: Sloane may leave the Crows for a Victorian contender. No one has emerged as a front-runner yet.
Tom Lynch (Gold Coast)
THE prized Suns key forward is reportedly mulling his future on the Gold Coast. The Suns’ skipper would make more money staying put than he would by leaving, but the opportunity to return home to Vic would be very tempting. Expect a large number of clubs to flag interest as the season progresses.
VERDICT: I expect Richmond and Hawthorn to throw the kitchen sink at him. Freo could also make a play, but if he leaves, Lynch will likely head home.
Jeremy McGovern (West Coast)
OF all the Eagles who are coming up as free agents I think Jeremy McGovern’s signature will be the most sought after. There are stories around a mega-deal that McGovern has been offered from an unknown Vic club, trumping West Coast’s offer of $4 million over five seasons. Being a WA born player, staying home could become a big factor, but if he opts for the money then we could see Jezza leave the Eagles.
VERDICT: I’m finding it hard to see a scenario where McGovern fly the coop.
Andrew Gaff (West Coast)
REPORTS around Gaff have been pretty quiet so far this season. A handful of clubs like St Kilda and Essendon have linked to the hard running winger in the past, but at the moment there isn’t a lot of news circulating around Gaff. He is in All-Australian form at the moment meaning someone will throw a boatload of money at him in the offseason. Given the Eagles salary cap constraints and the high draft-pick compensation they could get in return, they could opt to let Gaff walk and not match an offer from a rival club.
VERDICT: Still early days but this one seems to be a 50/50 decision right now. Watch this space.
Luke Dahlhaus (Western Bulldogs)
AFTER rumours surfaced that he was being shopped in the trade period, the relationship between the Bulldogs and Dahlhaus has been questioned. It’s very realistic that at the end of the 2018 season the premiership midfielder will change colours despite no clubs showing interest just yet. He very well could return to the Kennell, but a fresh start might be the best idea for all parties involved.
VERDICT: Someone will emerge in the latter half of the year as a suitor for Dahl. The Roos, Blues and Dees could be nice fits.
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Tom McDonald (Melbourne)
IT wouldn’t surprise me if a rival club chased McDonald hard once free agency kicks in. The Dees tall has emerged as an awesome key forward option in recent times after showing flashes late in 2017 as well. He also has the ability to defend at the other end of the ground, with his versatility making him extremely valuable. It’s unclear what the Demons plans are yet, but if McDonald keeps this up they won’t let him go anywhere.
VERDICT: Anything could happen in this scenario still. My guess right now is he stays a Dee.
Marc Murphy (Carlton)
COMING off a career-best season Murphy has failed to dodge the injury bullet this year. He shone in the first three weeks of action before being struck down by a plantar fascia complaint. With his return likely to occur this weekend I’m tipping him to be back to his best. For that reason, it’s hard to see the Blues letting him walk in the offseason.
VERDICT: With 239 games to his name the 30-year old is expected to re-sign with his club.
Kade Simpson (Carlton)
MUCH like his teammate above many Carlton fans would be happy to see Kade Simpson back in the navy blue next season. The Blues veteran defender is 34-years old and is on track to play in his 300th game at some point this year. He’s destined to finish up as a Blue.
VERDICT: See above.
Paul Puopolo (Hawthorn)
AFTER a stellar 2016 season Poppy hasn’t played at the same level over his last 19 outings. He can still navigate his way around a goal and with only 152 games to his name we could see him be a contributor elsewhere. Much like Dahlhaus, Puopolo has been mentioned in trade discussions and rumours with a departure from Hawthorn more than likely.
VERDICT: Puopolo can still play for another team and help develop some young guys. It would be nice to see him join the Suns or Blues.
Neville Jetta (Melbourne)
JETTA has revived his career with Melbourne and it’s not likely that he will be heading anywhere else. There is always the chance, but not only has he refound his feet, his play has been a massive boost for the Demons. It makes sense for both sides to renegotiate a new deal once the 2018 season wraps up.
VERDICT: Never say never, but it’s highly unlikely Jetta leaves.