Who should recruit Nick Malceski?

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

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    West Coast undoubtedly need to recruit some running players given their underwhelming 2014 season, but Sydney veteran Nick Malceski should not be one of them.

    Although he turns 30 in two days’ time, Malceski is as potent as at any time in his career, perhaps even moreso.

    The skilful defender is shaping as a likely inclusion in the All Australia team and is one of the key reasons the Swans have been so destructive this season.

    But players of his age, looking for one last big pay day before their career expires, are not suited to struggling teams like West Coast.

    It has been reported that both the Eagles and their cross-town foes Fremantle are among six AFL teams chasing Malceski, who will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. Malceski’s wife is from Western Australia which makes Perth an attractive location.

    Victorian journalist Damian Barrett claimed on the most recent edition of The Sunday Footy Show that Gold Coast were the frontrunners to sign Malceski.

    Barrett suggested that a three-year deal worth $500,000 a season had been offered to Malceski by the Suns.

    The Swans cannot afford to match such an offer given the huge slice of their salary cap swallowed up by the recruitment of former Hawthorn star Lance Franklin.

    Surely the Eagles cannot afford to pay anything close to that for a player who very likely won’t be there when they challenge for their next premiership.

    West Coast need to rejuvenate their list. They have put together back-to-back seasons of under-performance and disappointment.

    When the Eagles galloped to resounding wins over the Western Bulldogs, Melbourne and St Kilda in the opening three rounds of this season, some footy pundits and followers considered them a strong chance for a top-four finish.

    But, with veteran champions Darren Glass and Dean Cox both finishing up this year, the premiership window which some thought may have been slightly ajar has been welded shut.

    The Eagles current list places it as a borderline finals team, no more. They have a dynamic and multi-faceted forward line and a solid back six.

    Their midfield, however, has been vaporised repeatedly this season, particularly by teams who choke up their space and allow them little freedom.

    They lack players with explosive speed and strength who can bust open such rigid defensive structures.

    The Eagles need midfield pace. Preferably they would acquire this through the draft or by recruiting an established player in his early-20s.

    Spending wads of cash on a dashing defender in Malceski who will turn 31 next season would be a daft move. It would suggest the Eagles think they are within reach of a flag in the next two seasons. They are not.

    Fremantle would be a better fit considering they should again be in the premiership race next year. But do they really need Malceski?

    Any club would love to have him but what the Dockers lack is a second tall forward target to take the heat off spearhead Matthew Pavlich. Finding such a player, of course, is far from elementary.

    In any case, Malceski looks most likely to end up at the Gold Coast at this point. As we have seen from their massive decline in competitiveness since the injury to skipper Gary Ablett, they require more reliable veteran players.

    Could the addition of Malceski help them climb into the finals next season? Quite possibly.

    He certainly makes more sense as a Suns recruit than as a pickup for the Eagles or Dockers.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco