IN Essendon’s 21-point win last night we saw the continued coming of age from young ruckman Reilly O’Brien. Fantasy coaches and AFL enthusiasts alike have watched the young Crow evolve almost with every possession he gathers this season as he transforms into a bright young star of the competition. For ROB to have these opportunities though, recognized Adelaide ruckman Sam ‘Sauce’ Jacobs has had to step aside after injury issues forced the Crows to deploy O’Brien in the first place. Jacobs still has plenty to contribute to an AFL side and it seems like his time with Adelaide will come to an end this summer. Instead of being wasted for the rest of 2019 though a mid-season trade could have allowed him to chase success elsewhere to end the season.
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NO offense to Shaun McKernan, who was a key contributor in Essendon’s win last night, but he wouldn’t have been the Bombers’ first choice for a starting ruckman. Tom Bellchambers succumbing to injury in Round 15 and subpar performances from Zac Clarke forced them to play McKernan, but they are just one of the clubs who would have considered trading for ruck support if it was an option halfway through the season.
AS the result shows, they didn’t exactly need to win the ruck battle to walk away with the points. However, Adelaide did dominate the middle during the game, winning the hitout count 44-26 and dominating the clearances 50-28, including a 17-9 centre clearance ledger. Brad Crouch and Rory Sloane were the main offenders with nine clearances apiece, but O’Brien managed seven himself as the role ruckmen play in the AFL continues to evolve.
WITH O’Brien dominating in the senior side it’s hard to see Sauce Jacobs squeezing himself back into the lineup anytime soon. The 31-year old is just two games shy of chalking up his 200th AFL appearance and has been tearing up the SANFL competition since his return from injury. In his six games thus far, Jacobs is averaging 16 touches and 31 hitouts, with some ripper performances leading to some speculation over his return. However, with O’Brien signing a two-year extension only a few days ago, it’s clear which direction the Crows want to move in with O’Brien now an integral part of their budding midfield.
I can understand that trading Jacobs away during the season would leave all their eggs in the O’Brien basket and if his year went south the Crows season would be well and truly scrambled. That being said, they could manufacture a trade around another lesser-known ruckman to provide some depth and still demand extra assets. Perhaps the biggest weakness the Bombers have right now is the lack of a decent ruckman who can give the likes of Zach Merrett and Dylan Shiel first use of the footy, with Essendon rankings just 11th in the league for clearances (37.8 a game). A deal that would see Zac Clarke and draft picks head to Adelaide for Jacobs seems like fair compensation for both parties.
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BY no means do I have all the answers and Jacobs is just one example of how mid-season player movement could work in the AFL, much like it does in every other major sport. Of course, there are a bunch of logistics that need to be resolved, but it seems like players being traded during the AFL season is only a matter of time. One possible solution could be to hold a trade period over the bye rounds, giving teams a clear idea of what they’ll need to finish a season. Some rebuilding squads can focus on the draft while players who can still play at a high level get the chance to become part of a winning product in the effort to secure a premiership. Food for thought…
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