Finding the Best Fit For AFL Veterans Chasing a Fresh Start in 2020

SOMETIMES the grass is greener on the other side. This isn’t always the case, but a fresh start can sometimes kickstart an AFL players’ career into unchartered territory. There are some moves that we all expect to unfold over the summer with Bradley Hill, Tim Kelly and Jack Martin just a few of the popular names who are moving clubs, poised to join the Saints, Eagles and Blues respectively. The future of others doing the rounds on the rumour mill isn’t as set in stone, but I’ve helped 10 of them find the best future landing spot.

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Sam Jacobs, Adelaide Crows

BARING anything exceptional, Sam Jacobs career at the Crows appears to be done. Reilly O’Brien’s emergence this season forced Jacobs to fight for his spot in the lineup, something that he has rarely had to do during his nine-year tenure with Adelaide. There are plenty clubs who’d love to add some depth to their ruck department, but Jacobs won’t be content rotting away in the two’s with the 32-year old eager to claim the ultimate prize before he hangs ’em up. That perfectly paves the way for him to join the Giants and potentially be the final piece in a premiership puzzle and giving them another stop-gap solution while youngsters Kieren Briggs and Matthew Flynn continue to develop.

Joe Daniher, Essendon Bombers

THIS one is tricky because realistically I think Daniher’s best fit is to stay with the Bombers. However, injuries have taken their toll on Daniher with just 11 appearances in the last two seasons, with a fresh start possibly the best solution for both sides. The prospect of plugging the uber-talented forward in Sydney’s forward 50 is gathering steam, but there may be a solution that allows Daniher to stay in Victoria. Instead of changing states, I think it would make sense for him to seek a move to Hawthorn or Melbourne and serve as their premier goalkicker. Jack Gunston’s ability to play further up the ground and Jarryd Roughead’s retirement makes the Hawks my favourite destination for Daniher.
BEST FIT: Hawthorn Hawks

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Darcy Cameron, Sydney Swans

OK, I kind of cheated here with Darcy Cameron not exactly an AFL ‘veteran’. He isn’t really a spring chicken either with Cameron set to turn 25 during the 2020 season, however, he has just one senior game on his resume to date. He’s crying out for more opportunities and is only one year removed from finishing as the runner-up in the 2018 NEAFL Most Valuable Player award. With a gaping hole in their ruck department the Swans may want to finally unleash Cameron, but returning home to WA could also be intriguing. He wouldn’t immediately slot into the role that he so desires as West Coast’s starting ruckmen, but Cameron could push Nathan Vardy and/or Tom Hickey out of the rotation and serve as a part-time forward to supplement Nic Naitanui before one day taking the full-time reigns. Given Nic Nat’s health issues and the age profile of their other rucks, making a move for Cameron is certainly one worth entertaining.
BEST FIT: West Coast Eagles

Paul Puopolo, Hawthorn Hawks

PAUL Puopolo is a much-loved character by Hawks fans, so his departure isn’t guaranteed, but it could help him reinvigorate his career. The emergence of young small forward Oliver Hanrahan in the latter part of the season will at least make Hawthorn contemplate the idea of moving on from Poppy with the lively utility only managing to kick 10 goals for the season, his lowest return since his rookie campaign back in 2011. With 190 games to his name, a team who needs an immediate contributor would likely make a move for Poppy and in my eyes, the Crows are a team that could desperately use a spark up forward, especially if Betts’ time at West Lakes has come to an end.
BEST FIT: Adelaide Crows

Eddie Betts, Adelaide Crows

WHILE we’re on the subject, let us discuss the future of Eddie Betts. The supremely talented small forward is in the twilight of his career and after another year of falling short, the Crows are running a fine-tooth comb through their entire operation. Once the review is complete it may be decided that Betts and Adelaide should part ways, and despite the lure of more money and guaranteed games in a sunnier state, returning to Carlton makes a lot of sense. The Blues are in the market for a goal kicking small and after bagging 37 majors last season, Betts proved that there is still some life in his 32-year old legs. Make it happen!
BEST FIT: Carlton Blues

Sam Gray, Port Adelaide Power

IF the Blues fall short in their pursuit of an Eddie Betts reunion, another current SA resident could fill their needs. Sam Gray has managed 96 games with Port Adelaide since joining the club in 2013 kicking 20+ goals in each of his past three seasons. That type of firepower could be a nice boost for a team chasing someone of Gray’s calibre and there are a few suitors emerging. I had my doubts over the Western Bulldogs’ ability to put a winning score on the board, but they proved me wrong throughout the year, finishing 2019 as the 3rd highest-scoring team. Part of what made them so dangerous was the ability for their midfielders to push forward and impact the scoreboard, but acquiring Gray could allow them to still put numbers on the board while keeping Marcus Bontempelli and Josh Dunkley closer to the pill. Win-win if you ask me.
BEST FIT: Western Bulldogs

Paddy Ryder, Port Adelaide Power

HE may still be hoping for a full-time role as a club’s starting ruckman, but now that he is in the final chapter of his AFL career, it’s wise for Paddy Ryder to reassess his priorities. There are a bunch of AFL teams that are in the market for a reliable back-up ruckman, a role that Ryder could facilitate quite respectably to end his career, with the Saints one squad that is a logical on paper fit. Josh Bruce has reportedly been flirting with an exit, which could see Ryder take his place as a versatile forward/ruck in St Kilda’s lineup to support Rowan Marshall.
BEST FIT: St Kilda Saints

Chris Masten, West Coast Eagles

CHRIS Masten’s career at West Coast will likely continue next season, with the club apparently prepared to offer the premiership midfielder a one-year extension. Don’t think that’s Masten’s only option though with the possibility of extending his career out of WA if he can find the right fit. A player of Masten’s experience is exactly who the Gold Coast Suns should target, with the ability to provide a stable 20 possessions and set a good example of how to go about your life as an AFL footballer. Of course, the Suns have tried to get other veterans this offseason, but instead of swinging for the fences providing solid, middle-tier talent is the best way to ensure their rebuild goes the right way this time (more Jarrod Harbrow types). I’d be surprised if Masten chose to leave the club he supported as a kid, but if his hand is forced, Gold Coast looms large.
BEST FIT: Gold Coast Suns

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Jack Steven, St Kilda Saints

BOTH Jack Steven and Geelong tried to get this deal done last year and I’d be surprised if it didn’t come to fruition over this year’s trade period. Despite Steven’s intentions though, joining a jammed Geelong midfield might not be the smartest career move for the Saints gun, with plenty of other opportunities out there. Adding to their midfield depth is probably a wise choice with Dangerfield, the Selwood brothers and Gary Ablett not getting any younger, but if Jack Steven was really looking to kick his career back into gear a move to Sydney should be on the cards. We saw first hand this season how depleted the Swans’ midfield group was and there would be plenty of opportunities for Steven to finish out his career on a high note with the red and white as Luke Parker and Josh Kennedy start to decline.
BEST FIT: Sydney Swans

Shaun Higgins, North Melbourne Kangaroos

SHOULD Jack Steven fail to head to the Cattery and another star-studded youngster opts to head back West, there would be a gaping hole in the Cats’ midfield that needs to be addressed. Enter Shaun Higgins, who last month hosed down suggestions that he was entertaining the idea of finishing his career with Geelong. Having slaved away through a lot of ugly times it would be nice to see Higgins finish his career in a team with premiership aspirations with just 11 of his 220 AFL games coming in the finals. North might not budge easily on giving up the seasoned vet, but if Geelong can land a haul of draft selections for Tim Kelly, then one of them may be on-traded to the Roos in order to secure Higgins’ services.
BEST FIT: Geelong Cats

Peace ✌

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