AFL trade rumours: Is Jake a stayer or a Lever?

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    It’s been three weeks since we talked trade rumours, and you know what that means. My fingers are getting itchy!

    The biggest news in recent times is the reports that the Western Bulldogs are keen on Jake Lever, offering as much as $850,000 a year.

    The deal would likely run for at least five years, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see it balloon out even further than that.

    Most of the talk around Lever prior to the recent rumours has been that he would almost certainly remain at Adelaide but was waiting for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement to make a deal.

    Personally, I have suspected during the year that the ‘waiting for a new CBA’ line from players was as much a stalling tactic as anything, and it’s interesting to note how the tone has changed around Lever since it was announced.

    In April, Lever said: “In terms of my contract status, I’m sort of waiting for the CBA to be done, but my manager is in constant talks with the club.”

    On Tuesday he said: “I’m not sure I want it to be done before the finals, because if it’s a decision I have to make, I don’t want to be rushed into it just because it’s just before finals.”

    Although Lever has generally indicated throughout the year that it’s a ‘decision’ he has to make, rather than a mere formality, the fact that he doesn’t see the two months between now and finals as enough time to make that decision – despite already having an offer on the table from the Crows – certainly makes it clear that he is at least considering other options.

    The Bulldogs do seem to be the most likely destination if he does look for a return to Victoria, but Melbourne and Collingwood are also in pursuit. St Kilda and North Melbourne were also mentioned earlier in the year but seem to have focused on other targets.

    Melbourne, in particular, were strongly interested in him in his draft year and he was a consideration with picks 2 and 3 (eventually used on Christian Petracca and Angus Brayshaw).

    They also targetted him through a deal that would’ve seen Jack Trengove move to Richmond for the Tigers’ top draft pick that year, but fell through when a medical examination discovered Trengove had reinjured his foot.

    All three clubs could certainly use a key defender of Lever’s quality, of course – literally any club in the league would love to have him.

    Personally, I’m sticking to my opinion that he will likely stay with the Crows, but the door does seem more open now than it was a few short weeks ago.

    Jake Lever Adelaide Crows AFL 2016 tall

    (AAP Image/Ben Macmahon)

    It was suggested a little while ago that Hawthorn could be a quiet player in the market for Richmond free agent Dustin Martin.

    Hawthorn have a history of being very active at the trade table, but make relatively little noise before eventually making their move.

    Rarely has a season gone by where they haven’t poached at least one highly-rated player from an opposition club, and the identity of that player has usually been kept in the bag until later than is common for most clubs.

    Martin makes a lot of sense for Hawthorn as a target. Their recruitment of Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O’Meara last year was clearly aimed at revitalising their midfield, a job which is not yet complete.

    With Luke Hodge confirming that he will retire at the end of the year, Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis leaving last year, and possibly more retirements on the way, this is a strategy we should expect to ramp up rather than quieten down.

    The only question mark for Hawthorn when it comes to trading this year is their lack of valuable assets. Their first-round pick for the year is already gone and they are unlikely to trade a valuable player.

    That means that next year’s first round pick is essentially the only trade piece at their disposal likely to be of any use in attracting a quality player.

    Of course, that makes Martin, a free agent, all the more logical – though he is restricted free agent, so Hawthorn would have to be confident that any offer they made him could not be matched by the Tigers.

    Martin is more likely than not still in a Richmond guernsey next year, however, if he does go on to the open market then I’d expect Hawthorn to be in as deep as anyone.

    Dustin Martin Richmond Tigers AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    In other free agency news, it is sounding more and more like Nat Fyfe will re-sign with Fremantle for 2018 and beyond.

    “My management and the club are in discussions, and now that the CBA has been finalised the parties are in a better position to be able to sit down and work it out and I’m quite hopeful something will be done in the coming weeks,” Fyfe said recently.

    That’s fairly straightforward and it is sounding like we will soon be able to close the book on this one for the forseeable future.

    That said, he played his best game of the year on the weekend and, as I wrote in my quick takes, it will be interesting to see if continued top-flight form could reignite the market for his services.

    While the big names like Martin and Fyfe may be leaning more towards staying than going, it’s looking more and more likely that Levi Casboult will be playing elsewhere in 2018.

    The 27-year-old spearhead is in the middle of the best year of his career – he has kicked an accurate 23.13 from 15 games and only needs two more goals in the last seven weeks of the season to make it a career-high.

    These are by no means startling numbers but one has to consider that he’s playing as the No.1 forward (AKA the first target of opposition defenders) in a bottom-four side which has scored the least points of any in the league.

    He could have a good impact playing as the second banana to an A-grade key forward at another club.

    Although he hasn’t been strongly linked to any opposition clubs just yet, there has been a little talk of Richmond being interested, which would be about the best possible fit for him.

    A second dangerous tall target in attack to partner with Jack Riewoldt and make the forward line less predictable is probably Richmond’s biggest need on the list, and they don’t have any prospects that seem likely to step up and play that role in the near future. Casboult would also be a handy pinch-hitter in the ruck to support Toby Nankervis.

    The Tigers are also said to be interested in Sydney’s Sam Reid, who is also a free agent – but any decision on whether or not to pursue a free agent will live and die on what Dustin Martin does at the end of the year, because the potential free agency compensation for losing him would be affected, or perhaps crossed out entirely, if the Tigers gained a free agent of their own.

    Levi Casboult Carlton Blues AFL 2017 tall

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    While Casboult is probably on the way out, it seems Bryce Gibbs is a good chance to stay at Carlton, despite requesting a trade – and being refused – last year.

    Carlton CEO Steven Trigg recently said: “He’s contracted for two more years at the end of this year he’s happy… I can sit here quite confidently and say that he’s a Carlton player next year.”

    Gibbs himself hasn’t made any kind of strong public statement about where he wants to be in 2018, but it’s clear from his on-field form that he is in a good mental space.

    Of course, things can change pretty quickly once the season wraps up, so this will still be one to follow.

    We’ve also seen a few rumours meet their doom in recent weeks – Jason Johannisen and Steven May have ended speculation by re-signing, as has Luke Hodge by retiring.

    One other minor piece of news was a brief mention that Port Adelaide’s Brendon Ah Chee could look at a return to his home state of Western Australia.

    That would likely be to Fremantle if it comes to fruition, but he was also linked to Gold Coast last year, where his brother Callum plays.

    With all that wrapped up, why not a few Twitter questions?

    Well, he’ll be at Spotless Stadium on Saturday night… in a more long-term look, little has changed on the Kelly front. We won’t likely know a confirmed decision until the end of the year.

    While the media talk is that he’s more likely to sign a short-term deal at GWS than take up an offer from Victorian club, he could have done so already if he wished to, and holding off a decision until end of year suggests he’ll more likely than not move.

    Of course, that could be just the optimistic North Melbourne fan in me talking.

    Sitting tight is the last thing the Hawks ever do when it comes to trade time. I’d expect them to make some moves in the off-season but as discussed above, they’re usually good at keeping things under wraps.

    They’ll likely go hard at the free agent list, with Dustin Martin and Jackson Trengove both be heavily targetted – and perhaps there’s still interest in Fyfe?

    Doubt it! Might have got a third-round pick for him last year if the club had pushed him out the Daw but they signed him to a three-year deal instead. Doubt anyone is sniffing around given lack of impact at senior level.

    A fan’s got to dream, Ryan. A fan’s got a dream.

    As always, hit me up with your thoughts, questions, and wild, string-on-the-wall theories in the comments.

    Josh Elliott
    Josh Elliott

    Josh Elliott may be The Roar's Weekend Editor, but at heart he's just a rusted-on North Melbourne tragic with a penchant for pun headlines - and also abnormal alliteration, assuredly; assuming achievability. He once finished third in a hot chilli pie eating contest. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshElliott_29 and listen to him on The Roar's AFL Podcast.

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