The 2018 Trade and Free Agency Period saw a startling 46 moves made in the off-season. And as I've done so over the past few years, I thought it would be fitting to bring back the yearly 'winners and losers' article that I've written in years gone by.
But it comes with a twist this year.
Along with the outright winners and losers, there will be a 'Question Mark' section of the piece. This is for the sides who have been active in the trade period, but are unsure whether they have won or lost – this will be decided this time next year most likely, but for now, there is a sense of uncertainty surrounding the four teams I have in that particular bracket.
The only blip on North Melbourne's off-season was that they had Andrew Gaff in the palm of their hand, before a change of heart in the final minute resulted in him staying in West Coast colours for 2019 in beyond. Otherwise it was a great trade period for the Roos. They obtained Jared Polec and Jasper Pittard for the 10th overall pick, which is a win for both sides as both possess really good pace – which is something the Roos desperately needed. They also added Aaron Hall from Gold Coast and Dom Tyson from Melbourne to provide midfield depth and both have shown that they can be handy players in the past – they should propel North to the top eight in 2019.
It was a little bit like last year's off-season for the Dockers. They came out of the gate slow, signing Reece Conca via Free Agency, and then began talks with Jesse Hogan, which broke down and then gained traction within a few days. It was then they managed to acquire the ex-Demon forward. Almost immediately there were comparisons with Freo great Matthew Pavlich. Let's not go there just yet. He'll be a great acquisition and the Dockers have a lot to look forward to. To go along with that, they picked up Rory Lobb from GWS who provides strong marking hands, and Travis Colyer from Essendon, who has the speed and nous to be a presence as a small forward. Losing their reigning best and fairest winner Lachie Neale will hurt to a degree though.
Speaking of Lachie Neale, the Lions have emerged as a massive beneficiary of the Trade Period – perhaps for the first time in years. He is going to provide a lot of presence in the midfield – he knows how to win the ball, he's a pretty good user of it and will make those around him a tad better. Gaining Marcus Adams from the Bulldogs will help their back-line, providing he keeps himself healthy and also acquiring Lincoln McCarthy for next to nothing should help their forward line that little bit more. It's a shame they lost Dayne Beams though, it could've propelled the Lions up the ladder for the first time in yonks, but at least they get two first round picks out of it.
Speaking of Dayne Beams, it was the Pies – fresh off a Grand Final disaster, who managed to enhance their list even further with the re-addition of the former Brisbane captain, who was a part of their 2010 premiership team. Where he fits in with the likes of Treloar, Adams, Pendlebury, Sidebottom and company remains to be seen, but Jon Anderson – who writes for the Herald Sun – claims that Collingwood now have the best midfield in the history of the AFL. It is a ludicrous call, but it's hard to argue that he will make the team all the more greater. Also gaining Jordan Roughead for literally peanuts is a good get as well as he can play either defence or ruck which are two areas that they are lacking.
Essendon's team is missing one last elite-calibre midfielder and they finally landed one with Dylan Shiel's decision to join the Bombers ahead of Carlton, Hawthorn and St. Kilda. With the acquisition, it should make the lives of players such as Zach Merrett, Dyson Heppell and David Zaharakis much easier, also add the emergence of Devon Smith this year and the Bombers have the potential to be a force in 2019. Shiel's class with the ball in hand made him one of the most sought-after players this off-season and for Essendon to bring him in is huge going into next year.
If we are fair here, GWS were probably always going to be losing here. Their salary cap was way too much for them to keep all of their talent, so they needed to let go of some talent to ease up on their tight salary cap squeeze. Losing Shiel and Scully will be massive, as will Lobb's presence up forward, but Will Setterfield has only played a handful of games, so he won't be missed as greatly. They will get three draft picks inside the top 20 (9, 11 and 19) and another at 25 – and still there is enough talent on the list to see Leon Cameron's men make a shake of things next year.
However, I can't say the same to the Gold Coast Suns, who have nearly nothing left. They lost both their co-captains this year – Tom Lynch to Richmond through Free Agency and Steven May, who along with Kade Kolodjashnij, made their way to Melbourne for the sixth pick in the AFL Draft. They also lost Aaron Hall and Jack Scrimshaw, but they struggled for game time this year. They have four fringe players coming in from other AFL clubs as well as three state-league concessions and three picks in the top six of the AFL Draft (2, 3 and 6), but the way I'm seeing it right now, they will have a hard time next year to get wins on the board.
Given that they were bundled out of the first week in the Finals, I would've expected more from the Swans to make some moves in the off-season. Dan Hannebery's best looks beyond him, so offloading him for two second round picks is a plus, and Gary Rohan and Nic Newman are surplus players at best. Ryan Clarke and Jackson Thurlow have upside but I'm unsure whether or not they are 'Best 22' players or not. But if there's one thing I know about Sydney, is that they're planning for their next big move and offloading Hannebery and Rohan opens up some significant cap space. Stay tuned for the Swans.
West Coast Eagles
It's not that they brought ruckman Tom Hickey from St. Kilda in – I actually like this as it covers the loss of Scott Lycett to Port Adelaide – but it's more to do with the fact that they couldn't broker a deal to bring Tim Kelly from Geelong back home. Kelly has had an incredible first season, and as hard as the Cats made it, the Eagles should've pulled the trigger on three second-round picks. It sounds a bit over the top, but he would've made the Eagles' on-ball brigade so much better and given they just won a Grand Final – that's a scary thought for next year when he's out of contract.
After a pretty dismal year, the Saints needed to recruit players and they did that by bringing in Dan Hannebery from Sydney and Dean Kent from Melbourne. However, there are question marks surrounding both players – Hannebery was an All-Australian once upon a time and hopefully he brings the famed 'Bloods Culture', but he hasn't been the same player since the 2016 Grand Final. Kent has the scope to be a serious player up forward, but has been plagued with injuries. They are taking a massive gamble to try and prepare themselves back up the ladder in 2019 – only time is going to tell on these particular moves.
Like the Saints, the Hawks needed to do some recruiting after being bundled out in straight sets for the second time in three years. They have brought in three former top-10 draft picks, however each has their own set of baggage. The biggest get of them all – Chad Wingard – has been on a downward spiral of form in the past 24 months, they gave up an incredible amount to get him. They got Tom Scully for a future fourth-round pick, which has small risk, big reward potential written all over it, as there are still major concerns about his ankle, and there is ex-Sun Jack Scrimshaw, who was the seventh pick in the 2016 Draft, but has struggled severely since. It's a huge gamble, and they gave up a number of draft picks, plus the talented Ryan Burton to get these players.
It's all well and good that they nabbed the big fish in the Free Agency pond that is Tom Lynch, but Alex Rance said it best earlier this year that the addition of Tom Lynch could 'Upset the Apple Cart.' There is potential it could, but there is also every chance that they will be up at the pointy end in 2019. They lost four players to other clubs, but the truth is that they all struggled for senior game time so perhaps losing some depth was always going to happen, but at the moment, it could take some time for both Lynch and Riewoldt to get as a formidable one-two punch.
I like that Carlton went full steam ahead in the off-season and have got four new players to show for it. Mitch McGovern has shown in Adelaide that he can certainly play and will help Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay as the tall forwards. Alex Fasolo will also be a regular in the team next year as the need some small forwards and he is one that can give you bag, providing he stays fit. Will Setterfield is also a smart get – given that he was a top-five pick in 2016. These three have the potential to play defining roles in the future, but I need to see what they can bring to the table in 2019.