AFL trade rumours: Lever says no to Dogs, Martin still on the market

192 Have your say

    The home-and-away season is almost over for 2017, and at the end of next week ten clubs are officially going to turn to the business of building their 2018 lists.

    That means there’ll be plenty of action on the trade rumours front, and we are already seeing some hot gossip emerge.

    On Monday it was reported on that Jake Lever has officially ruled the Western Bulldogs out of the race for his services.

    Why is this the case? The Bulldogs were offering Lever as much as $800,000 a year for five years, an offer unlikely to be significantly beaten by anyone else.

    They also offer just as much if not more prospect of future success than really any other club in Victoria.

    Reportedly, the Dogs have grown a bit tired of waiting for Lever to make a decision, which if the Crows have an extended finals campaign, seems unlikely to come until October.

    In addition to this, they seem to have fallen behind another suitor – it’s not clear who – and probably were not interested in waiting six weeks to hear “no”.

    I suspect the Bulldogs perhaps asked Lever to give them a final yes or no answer here and now, and without being able to give them a yes, it had to be a no.

    So who is that other suitor? It seems like the race is down to two – Melbourne or Collingwood.

    St Kilda, North Melbourne and Hawthorn have all been mentioned at various times in discussion of Lever, but the Saints and Roos not for a while, and the Hawks very little.

    There were reports a little while ago that Lever met with Melbourne personally, although this was later denied by him.

    Still, my own personal gut feel now would be that Lever will be playing for the Demons next year.

    Jake Lever Adelaide Crows AFL 2016

    (AAP Image/Ben Macmahon)

    There has been some interesting twists and turns in the Dustin Martin story in the past few weeks, and his future at the moment is still unclear.

    While most commentators – myself included – have long believed Martin was more likely to re-sign with Richmond than any other choice, there’s some debate about that now.

    It seems to be the case that Richmond and North Melbourne are in a bidding war for his services, and the Kangaroos have plenty to spend.

    The numbers are different depending on who you ask, but North are said to be offering as much as a seven-year deal worth $1.5 million, and could have as much as $2 million to spend if their pursuit of Josh Kelly falls short.

    Richmond are likely to match that length of deal but presumably cannot fit a wage that big into their salary cap given they’re already accomodating stars like Trent Cotchin, Alex Rance, Jack Riewoldt and recent recruit Dion Prestia.

    The largest offer that’s been floated in the media as supposedly coming from them is $1.2 million. That’s still a hefty sum of money, but over the life of the deal the difference is as much as $2 million in the bank.

    There’s also been rumour lately that Martin has met with North Melbourne’s leadership group, and that North Melbourne are meeting with his father in New Zealand, although the latter has been hotly denied by the Kangaroos.

    It has also been reported that it is in fact Dustin and his manager going to visit his father in New Zealand before finals. That seems more likely to be true.

    Hard to say how this one is going to turn out, but perhaps the more interesting debate at the moment is whether or not $1.5 million is a reasonable amount to spend on Dustin Martin, or any one player for that matter.

    From my perspective as a North fan, the answer is a hard yes – elite talents like Martin are hard to find and fortune favours the bold. Particularly if you can get someone of his quality as a free agent, it’s worth spending a little extra.

    Dustin Martin Richmond Tigers AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    Much of the speculation about Dustin Martin has come off the back of talk that North Melbourne at least are turning their focus away from Josh Kelly.

    His future is probably the hardest to puzzle out of any of the big names on the market right now, as there are so many conflicting stories going around.

    One week everyone is saying that he’s gone, looking for big money in Victoria and would surely have re-signed by now if that’s what he was going to do.

    The next, we’re back to talking about how he’ll likely take a two-year deal at GWS and then reassess his options at the end of 2019.

    There’s also been chatter lately that Essendon are a late entry in the race for his services – and perhaps that explains a bit of why David Zaharakis is still yet to sign a new deal.

    On top of that there’s debate about what kind of deal North are offering him. Is it still nine million over nine years? Or is it up to ten million now? Or is it $7.5 million over five?

    The honest answer is that we’re all a little blind here and probably no one is really sure of what Kelly will do, perhaps not even Kelly himself.

    What is clear though is that Kelly is the lynchpin in GWS’ off-season and what he decides to do is going to shape everything else they get done.

    Devon Smith is their other out-of-contract star and it seems increasingly likely that the Giants will keep one and lose the other.

    Their preference is to keep Kelly, so they’re presumably waiting on a final decision for him before they opt to either sign Smith or let him go.

    Of course, if they wait too long, they risk him becoming disgruntled, and they lose both.

    Josh Kelly GWS Giants AFL 2017

    (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

    The future of Charlie Cameron has been in the news lately, after coaches Chris Fagan and Don Pyke had a public back and forth about the rumours Brisbane are after him.

    Cameron is contracted from 2018 and based on Pyke’s comments, Adelaide are looking to hold him to that, but it does seem more and more likely he’ll request a trade regardless.

    If he does then Brisbane are going to have to pay a high price, assuming the Crows are willing to budge at all, but it’s worth it – Cameron has a rare mix of valuable attributes and has proven he can play at an elite level.

    It’s not hard to understand why Adelaide are getting a bit testy, though. The way things are going they could lose all of Cameron, Lever, and Mitch McGovern this season.

    That’s got to be a bit frustrating as the club couldn’t be doing any more to provide them with the prospect of future success and presumably has reasonable financial offers in front of all of them.

    It’d be a disappointing result to lose all three but it would also leave them with plenty of cash and as many as four first round draft picks to burn.

    I’m sure if they hit the market and go shopping they can find some elite replacements who would kill to be part of a team that is going to be in the flag conversation regularly over the next few years.

    Perhaps Bryce Gibbs is still one of those – two first-round picks for him might sound more feasible if they’d still have two left over.

    As for the brief debate that was had last week about the Fagan-Pyke comments, there really is no winner in a contest like this.

    The key thing to remember is that Chris Fagan doesn’t wake up one morning thinking “I’m going to talk about Charlie Cameron today” – he gets asked a question at a presser and he answers it, but it doesn’t get reported that way.

    Pyke’s response about Cameron being under contract rang a bit hollow obviously given Adelaide’s own pursuit of contracted Gibbs last year.

    Of course, there wasn’t any public comments made about Gibbs by anyone at Adelaide while the season was still in progress, so one could argue that’s where the moral difference lies.

    The simple answer would be for Fagan to instead say “Out of respect to Adelaide, I won’t comment on one of their players while they’re preparing for a finals campaign.”

    The even simpler answer would be for everyone to just chill a little and accept that this a bothersome but unavoidable part of the league, and everyone is going to wind up on both sides of the conversation sooner or later.

    Charlie Cameron Adelaide Crows Showdown AFL 2015

    (AAP Image/Ben Macmahon)

    A few smaller fish just to close things out:

    Jarrad McVeigh looks likely to play on at another club next year, Sam Mitchell-style. He wants to play on but it doesn’t seem likely that Sydney will give him another deal.

    Being an unrestricted free agent, that likely leads him to take up a one-year deal at a Victorian club that will transition into a coaching position.

    Essendon and Carlton are the two clubs who’ve been mentioned as keen so far, but you’d expect others will give it some thought too.

    Brandon Matera looks certain to leave Gold Coast, the only question is where to – a return home to Western Australia is an obvious possibility, though it is said Fremantle, rather than West Coast (where his uncle Peter played), are most interested.

    Don’t be surprised if that changes though, West Coast are interested in a small forward and there aren’t that many options available. Matera is also reportedly open to a move to Victoria, and there may be some clubs there who’d offer him a deal.

    19-game Bulldog Lukas Webb is also looking likely to move elsewhere at the end of the season.

    He is out of contract at the end of 2017 and despite strong VFL form has had only limited opportunities this year.

    That said, perhaps the retirement of some backline veterans like Bob Murphy, Matthew Boyd and Dale Morris will open that door for him.

    If it does, he might still be convinced to remain with the Dogs.

    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.

    This crunching tackle is the most viewed Club Roar video of all time! It's in the running to win a share of $10,000.
    Watch the full video here