Travis Cloke’s contract will have repercussions for Magpies
Travis Cloke’s drawn-out contract negotiations could see Collingwood lose one or even two of the six Magpie players yet to commit to the club beyond 2012.
Nathan Buckley has said that “If a player or a player manager was to go a little bit too hard, particularly in the circumstances we’re in this year, well then you’d either need to let that guy go or you’d have to look somewhere else.” This appeared to be his first public indirect mention of David Cloke playing hard-ball with the Magpies over his son’s deal.
Buckley also gave a public indication as to how little flexibility the club has with its salary cap. With Scott Pendlebury and Dane Swan signing for around $800,000 apiece, as well as big money for Dale Thomas, Buckley said “All of those guys understand the lay of the land, there’s not a whole lot of movement that can happen from our side of things.”
Tyson Goldsack, Dayne Beams, Sharrod Wellingham, Ben Reid and Harry O’Brien are all also out of contract. In recent weeks the Pies have been able to re-sign Jarryd Blair, Luke Ball and Steele Sidebottom. Sidebottom is having his best year at Collingwood, averaging 28 possessions per game and revelling in the hole left by Luke Ball’s season-ending knee injury. It’s likely he would have received a pay increase, even if not a major one.
Beams, 22, who missed last year’s grand final loss to Geelong through injury, now sits fifth in the AFL for average disposals, at 29.9 per game. He averages just less than one goal per game (0.9) and is without doubt having his best year at the Magpies.
The emergence of Beams to this elite level in season 2012 now creates even bigger conundrums for Collingwood, who face the challenge of trying to re-sign him as well as Cloke and the other uncontracted four, with next to no room to move with the salary cap.
The Magpies will rely heavily on the prestige of the club, the success it has had recently, and the prospect of future success with a relatively young list, in order to keep its players from the lure of bigger money at other clubs.
Ben Reid, 23, has a very promising future and is one of as one of the best backmen in the land, validated by his selection as the 2011 All-Australian centre half back. He is the most important part of the Collingwood backline, and with Chris Tarrant in his last year or two at the club, the Magpies simply must secure his services for the future.
At such a young age, a three to four year deal with big money could take Reid from the Westpac Centre, and with brother Sam up in Sydney, he could be lured to the harbour state.
With Beams’ value increasing and Cloke guaranteed around $800,000 or more, Reid is likely to be behind those two in the pecking order for big money. Had Cloke come out and said he was staying, the Magpies would have been able to table an offer to Reid quietly and negotiated a deal without external pressures from the media and the public.
Harry O’Brien has publicly said this week that he would like to remain at Collingwood and be a one-club player, and it is likely he will stay. He is ranked sixth in the AFL for rebound 50s, and alongside Heath Shaw provides critical drive from defence for the Magpies, making them dangerous on the counter-attack.
With Ben Johnson’s future uncertain, O’Brien is more important to Collingwood than we realise. Were the Magpies to lose him, they would lose a key part of their defensive structure. However, O’Brien is likely to be one of the last to sign, as his deal will be negotiated after the Magpies have secured Cloke, Beams and Reid. This leaves him with the last part of the salary cap, which promises to be precious little.
Sharrod Wellingham is another key midfielder at the Magpies, providing depth that gives opposition coaches genuine problems. When attention goes to Pendlebury, Thomas and Swan, Wellingham can get off the chain and be very damaging. As we’ve seen with John McCarthy at Port Adelaide this year, if Wellingham goes to another club, he could easily be the best or second-best midfielder.
A very important player for the Magpies, and one who we don’t yet truly appreciate in the shadow of Collingwood’s elite midfield brigade.
The player who has snuck under the radar in all of this is Tyson Goldsack. Goldsack, whose career looked to be at the crossroads at the end of 2011, has been reinvigorated by a move forward in 2012, with a raking right foot kicking 16 goals this season after having only bagged seven in five seasons in defence.
His ability to play forward or back makes him a very attractive prospect, and at 25, interested clubs could get another five or more years of good football from him if the Pies can’t hold onto him.
For Collingwood these contract negotiations could well shape its future. Wellingham, Beams, and Reid are all below 24, while Cloke, O’Brien and Goldsack are all below 26, and could offer the Magpies another five years of quality football, enough to create a dynasty that could rival the current Geelong side or the Brisbane Lions of the early 2000s.
Time will tell, but this promises to be a pivotal part of the Collingwood Football Club story for the rest of this decade.