The top five best and worst AFL club trade periods of the last ten years

Stirling Coates Roar Guru

By Stirling Coates, Stirling Coates is a Roar Guru

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    With the 2017 AFL trade period set to get underway very shortly, it seems timely to look back at which teams struck gold and which teams struck out during the offseason player acquisition periods.

    These rankings look at each team’s transactions over the entire player acquisition period – the trade period, free agency and the draft – since the 2007/08 offseason.

    Teams who picked well and made smart trades were nominated for the top five, whereas teams who overpaid for superstars, let good players walk or missed out on now-household names in the draft found themselves on the other side of the ledger.

    For the avoidance of doubt, off-the-field controversies were not factored into these rankings, whereas prolific retirements weren’t considered negatives when assessing how good or bad a club’s offseason was.

    Due to the high number of concessions, Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney’s first drafts were excluded from consideration.

    Without further ado…

    Top five best offseasons

    5) Port Adelaide – 2012/13
    Coming off a horror 2012 season that saw the club win just five games, sack former favourite son Matthew Primus and seemingly beg and plead assistants across the country to take the coaching position, Port Adelaide got incredible bang for their buck at both the trade table and in the draft.

    Despite losing Danyle Pearce to Fremantle and Troy Chaplin to Richmond as free agents, the compensation picks they received in return – 29 and 30 – gave them the freedom to use their existing pick 28 at the trade table – and use it they did.

    The Power were able to prize both Jack Hombsch and the rights to Jake Neade off Greater Western Sydney in exchange for the aforementioned second-round pick, while also flipping pick 51 off to Essendon for Angus Monfries.

    Port Adelaide scored in the draft too, nabbing Ollie Wines with pick seven and Tom Clurey at 29 – the pick they got for Danyle Pearce.

    The arrival of coach Ken Hinkley, of course, capped off a very successful offseason that helped get the Alberton mob out of the doldrums.

    4) Fremantle – 2008/09
    The 2008 offseason is remembered for league-wide constipation at the trade table, so for any team to have done well this year, it would have needed to be through smart drafting.

    Freo secured Stephen Hill at pick three, Hayden Ballantyne at 21, Nick Suban at 24, Zac Clarke at 37, Michael Walters at 53, Matt de Boer, Clancee Pearce and Greg Broughton in the rookie draft. It is very rare for one team to pluck so many regular contributors from one draft, but that’s just what the Dockers did.

    Suban’s pick actually came from Carlton as one of three picks the Blues surrendered for Robert Warnock – one of just five trades completed that season.

    No grand slams, but the Dockers reached base safely on every single transaction that year.

    Michael Walters Fremantle Dockers AFL 2014

    Michael Walters was a steal at pick 53. (AAP Image/Tony McDonough)

    3) Sydney – 2013/14
    It was actually on my birthday in 2013 when Greater Western Sydney announced they had withdrawn their contract offer to Lance Franklin on the basis the Hawthorn superstar was headed to the Sydney Swans.

    In one of the most stunning defections in modern football history, ‘Buddy’ defied everyone’s predictions by choosing the red and white over their cross-town rivals in a stunning coup for John Longmire’s men.

    That wasn’t the only smart move Sydney made that offseason though.

    The Swans got stunning value for offloading some of their fringe players, with Carlton coughing up pick 32 for Andrejs Everitt and the ‘Pies offering pick 44 for Jesse White. Sydney turned those picks into George Hewett and Aliir Aliir.

    Sydney also picked up Zak Jones at number 15 in that year’s draft, while the pick GWS gave them for Shane Mumford (35) was used to select Toby Nankervis.

    2) Geelong – 2015/16
    Having missed finals for the first time since 2006, the long-rumoured arrival of Patrick Dangerfield meant Geelong weren’t expected to bottom out.

    The Cats ended up having a very smart offseason that saw them rebuild into a premiership contender almost instantaneously.

    They managed to prize Dangerfield away from Adelaide without giving up any established players, but also shored up their key positions very nicely with the acquisitions of Lachie Henderson from Carlton for a future first-round pick and Zac Smith from Gold Coast for picks 49 and 53.

    Scott Selwood also joined from West Coast as a free agent.

    Their trades did leave them very thin on draft picks, although they were able to score some future picks back through offloading Josh Walker and Jarrad Jansen to Brisbane and Steve Johnson to GWS.

    Despite making no selections in the draft’s top 50, Geelong still came away with one of the best players in the draft in Sam Menegola at pick 66.

    1) Sydney – 2009/10
    If you want the dictionary definition of rebuilding on the go, this is it.

    At the end of 2009, Sydney had failed to make September for the first time since 2002 and, with the losses of Barry Hall, Leo Barry, Michael O’Loughlin and Jared Crouch, they could have been forgiven for a few years in the cellar.

    Hall was offloaded to the Bulldogs for pick 47, which the Swans then shipped alongside Amon Buchanan to Brisbane in a three-way trade that netted them West Coast’s Mark Seaby as well as picks 28 and 39.

    Sydney also offloaded wantaway ruckman Darren Jolly to Collingwood and received picks 14 and 46 in return.

    Those moves seemed like that of a team headed for a long-term rebuild, but the Swans were able to cash that currency in very nicely.

    Pick 28, received from Brisbane, was dealt to Geelong in a straight swap for Shane Mumford, while Collingwood’s pick 46 was packaged with picks 39 (also from Brisbane) and 70 to Hawthorn in exchange for both Josh Kennedy and Ben McGlynn.

    Then, at the draft, the Swans hit the nail three times picking up Gary Rohan at pick six, Lewis Jetta with Collingwood’s pick 14 and Sam Reid at pick 38.

    The moves turned Sydney’s fortunes around instantly and, to this day, 2009 remains the last season they missed the finals.

    Josh Kennedy vies for the ball

    Josh Kennedy has been a bargain for the Swans since 2010. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

    Honourable mentions
    St Kilda – 2007/08: Traded Pick 26 to Sydney in exchange for Adam Schneider and Sean Dempster, traded pick 90 to Geelong for Steven King and Charlie Gardiner. Selected Ben McEvoy at pick nine and Jack Steven at 42. Only four transactions but all were good value.

    Hawthorn – 2010/11: Picked up David Hale and Kyle Cheney for a good price in the trade period as well as drafting Isaac Smith (19) and Paul Puopolo (66). The Hawks haven’t had any outstanding offseasons in the last decade, but they’ve all been wins.

    Top five worst offseasons

    5) Collingwood – 2016/17
    None of Collingwood’s moves in the most recent offseason can be classified as outright disasters in isolation, but in the context of a team that’s slid down the ladder for six straight seasons, it’s hard to argue the approach they took was the right one.

    While offloading Travis Cloke and his monstrous contract to the Western Bulldogs was a good move, the Magpies fell into the exact same hole that move was suppose to fill by signing free agent Chris Mayne to a crazy deal.

    Daniel Wells unsurprisingly only managed ten games in the first year of a lucrative three-year deal, while the opportunity to stockpile draft picks created by dealing Jarrod Witts to Gold Coast was squandered by sending two picks to Melbourne for Lynden Dunn.

    Sending Jack Frost to Brisbane just days after Nathan Brown jumped shipped to St Kilda left the ‘Pies perilously thin on key defenders, while only procuring pick 105 from North Melbourne for Marley Williams seemed a pretty poor deal.

    Collingwood did get one good deal through, with ex-Giant Will Hoskin-Elliott proving to be more than worth the 2017 second-rounder he was traded for.

    4) Melbourne – 2011/12
    The offseason is a critical period for any club trying to turn its fortunes around, but on this occasion, Melbourne simply got nothing out of it.

    The loss of Tom Scully to Greater Western Sydney was unavoidable but still hurt the club badly, while the appointment of Mark Neeld as coach proved to be a disaster with the ex-Collingwood assistant shown the door just halfway through his second season.

    While it’s hard to be tough on Mitch Clark knowing what we know, in a footballing sense the Demons lost out in surrendering pick 12 to Brisbane for him, while their only three picks in the draft netted them Rory Taggert, Josh Tynan and James Sellar.

    That group combined for 25 games, with Sellar playing 23 of those.

    3) Carlton – 2014/15
    The last offseason of Michael Malthouse’s ill-fated stint at Carlton proved to be a disaster and, up until Liam Jones’ stunning turnaround as a defender this year, actually looked a whole lot worse.

    As it stands, their exchange of pick 46 for ex-Bulldog Jones is this offseason’s lone highlight.

    The Blues massively overpaid for GWS offcuts Mark Whiley and Kristian Jaksch, surrendering pick seven for two now-delisted players as well as pick 19.

    Carlton let Melbourne have Jeff Garlett and pick 83 for the bargain price of picks 61 and 79 – both of which they elected not to use – while Jarrad Waite also bolted to North Melbourne as a free agent.

    At the draft, the Blues missed on every selection, selecting Blaine Boekhorst at 19 and delisted trio Dillon Viojo-Rainbow, Clem Smith and Jayden Foster with picks 28, 60 and 63 respectively.

    2) Brisbane Lions – 2009/10
    Michael Voss’ first season as Brisbane coach was a success. The club returned to the finals since 2004 and enjoyed a thrilling comeback win over Carlton in their elimination final.

    Things looked up in the Sunshine state until Voss approached the trade period with the same attitude a kid with their parent’s credit card approaches an iPhone game.

    The Brendan Fevola trade, costing them Lachie Henderson and Pick 12, was a disaster to the point where it deserves its own article, but the Lions threw away several draft picks to secure older, fringe players in one of the most bewildering trade periods in history.

    Pick 28 was surrendered to Sydney for Amon Buchanan, pick 44 was shipped to Richmond for Andrew Raines while pick 60 was also parted with to secure St Kilda’s Xavier Clarke.

    Brisbane were also happy to ship promising youngster Brad Dalziell to West Coast for Brent Staker.

    When it came time to draft, the Lions didn’t make up for lost youth at all. Their selection of Callum Bartlett at 27 came immediately before Geelong and Adelaide called the names of Mitch Duncan and Jack Gunston, while Dylan Roberton and Taylor Duryea were still on the board when they picked Ryan Harwood at 47.

    Jesse O’Brien (73), Bryce Retzlaff (84) and ex-Saint Matt Maguire (91) rounded out a disappointing draft in a disastrous offseason.

    Sam Docherty Carlton Blues AFL 2017

    Sam Docherty ditched Brisbane for the Blues. (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

    1) Brisbane Lions – 2013/14
    Was there any other candidate?

    The famous ‘go home five’ offseason Brisbane suffered on the precipice of their return to competitiveness set the club back a period of time we’re only just coming to understand in terms of length.

    The loss of Patrick Karnezis to Collingwood was probably the least impactful, although their compensation in Jackson Paine was also probably the weakest.

    Elliot Yeo was poached by West Coast in exchange for pick 28, Carlton were charged pick 33 for snatching Sam Docherty, while Port Adelaide received Jared Polec and pick 45 and gave up picks 22, 34 and 48.

    Billy Longer and pick 48 were sent to St Kilda in exchange for picks 25 and 41, with the Lions decision to flip the latter pick to Geelong for Trent West also proving a dud.

    The mood around the club was plunged into utter despondency, while the club’s rumoured premature sacking of Michael Voss to secure Paul Roos proved to be a failure, with the club handing the poisoned chalice to Justin Leppitsch instead.

    Brisbane didn’t do terribly in a somewhat shallow draft, picking up James Aish with pick seven, while Darcy Gardiner (22), Daniel McStay (25), Lewis Taylor (28), Tom Cutler (33) and Nick Robertson (34) all came from exodus compensation picks. Jono Freeman (62) and Justin Clarke (75) rounded out their selections.

    The Lions didn’t do great either though, overlooking Patrick Cripps (13), Zach Merrett (26), Rory Lobb (29) and Ben Brown (47).

    Honourable mention
    Melbourne 2007/08: The Demons shipped Travis Johnstone off to Brisbane for pick 14 and used that to select Jack Grimes. That was a good move, but they overlooked Patrick Dangerield, Cyril Rioli and Brad Ebert when they picked Cale Morton at four, while Harry Taylor, Alex Rance and Callan Ward were also available when they selected Grimes.

    So there you have it Roarers. Do you think those offseasons deserve to be ranked where they are? Can you remember any particularly stunning or shocking offseasons not mentioned?

    Be sure to let me know in the comments.

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    The Crowd Says (7)

    • October 6th 2017 @ 9:19am
      me too said | October 6th 2017 @ 9:19am | ! Report

      missed the worst off season completely.
      St Kilda 2009/10.
      Looking to go one step better (all they had to do was repeat the same effort) after being an unlucky runner up to Geelong, Lyon let Ball go for nowt in the draft and used our top pick on Lovett. Result – Lovett never played a game and Ball took his hard in and under grunt work and St Kilda’s gameplan to Collingwood and helped them and himself to a flag over the hapless Saints.
      Ross Lyon’s greatest moment. Easily the worst and stupidest offseason move in history.

      • October 6th 2017 @ 11:16pm
        Don Freo said | October 6th 2017 @ 11:16pm | ! Report

        Lovett, of course, was an excellent footballer. The law was the reason he never played a game. Not a football decision.

    • October 6th 2017 @ 9:21am
      Trevor said | October 6th 2017 @ 9:21am | ! Report

      First two mentioned don’t even involve any trades of note. If you are just going to talk about drafts, then Hawks picking up Franklin, Roughead and Lewis would be good. If you want to include trades, what about the Hawks trading McPharlin and Croad for picks 1 and 36 (Hodge and Mitchell) and then getting Croad back a couple of years later anyway. Or how about Richmond bring in Nankervis, Caddy and the Prestia last year. Both of these examples have lead directly to premierships.

      • Roar Guru

        October 6th 2017 @ 10:56am
        JamesH said | October 6th 2017 @ 10:56am | ! Report

        You’re spot on with the Richmond call but the two Hawks trade periods you’re talking about happened more than 10 years ago.

        I also don’t think you can separate the trade from the draft because the end result of the draft picks that were traded factors into the success of the trade. Shipping off a mid-tier player and using the resultant pick on a gun makes the trade a success; using that pick on a dud makes it a failure.

    • Roar Guru

      October 6th 2017 @ 10:48am
      Paul D said | October 6th 2017 @ 10:48am | ! Report

      I can’t disagree with your worst two or your assessment of them either.

      Essendon’s 2015/16 off-season surely a contender for the worst in other circumstances

    • October 6th 2017 @ 2:18pm
      King Bob said | October 6th 2017 @ 2:18pm | ! Report

      Josh Kennedy trade to Sydney after only playing 13 games, especially considering that his father and GrandFather were Hawthorn legends.

      He was traded to Sydney at the end of the 2009 season, along with Ben McGlynn, with Hawthorn receiving draft picks 39, 46, and 70 in exchange.

      Pick 39 was Sam Grimley who played 3 games while 46 was better value with selecting Ben Stratton.
      But they traded away a true legend and potential captain.

      • October 7th 2017 @ 3:12am
        Nev said | October 7th 2017 @ 3:12am | ! Report

        He got a strong offer from Sydney and hawthorn didn’t stand in his way. The hawks also had a surfeit of inside, one paced midfielders who were all ahead of him and likely to stay ahead of him (Mitchell, Lewis, Hodge).

        Still gutted though.

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