Everyone knows I love a good trade hypothetical. In fact, the only thing I love more is a bad trade hypothetical. And that’s what this is.
Something I’ve thought about on many occasions is what it would be like if AFL clubs traded more strategically.
At the moment trading mostly takes the form of convincing a player from an opposition club to defect, then lowballing said club at the trade table until finally one side blinks and a deal is struck.
Clubs and fans have emotional attachments to their players and in the AFL this puts up too much of a barrier for a side to seriously consider trading a high-quality player unless they’re known to want out.
A team like Fremantle might push out a Chris Mayne type every now and then but Adelaide would never have willingly traded Patrick Dangerfield while contracted, even though Melbourne were whispered to have offered both picks 2 and 3 for him.
So please understand that I’m entirely aware that the scenario I’m about to present to you is completely unrealistic.
But if we lived in a world of tactical trading, I really think Melbourne would consider making a deal for Jesse Hogan this year.
We’ve already talked about Tom J Lynch once or twice this preseason, so I won’t discuss his situation in length again here. You get it by now. Let’s say 50/50 chance he decides to come home to a Victorian club at the end of the year.
Richmond and Hawthorn are generally acknowledged to be leading the chase. But if you wanted to pick a Victorian club who is most likely to win a flag before the end of Lynch’s career – and I know this is a big call – it’s neither of them. It’s Melbourne.
The Dees have a list stocked with talent, much of it young, all across the field that is ready to pop. I’m tipping them to be a top-four side this year and a flag contender by the end of the decade.
Can any other Victorian side boast that kind of promise? Maybe Essendon, or the Western Bulldogs. But for mine Melbourne are the leading contender for the title of ‘best Victorian team five years from now’.
That being the case, it’s a destination that makes perfect sense for Lynch to go to – the complication being that they already have a very good key forward in Jesse Hogan.
I’ll leave it to you to decide which of the two you think is the better talent. Whichever side you fall on I suspect we can agree that they’re both top-tier talents as far as key forwards go. Hogan is a little younger, Lynch a little more proven.
Could they play in the same side together? Maybe. But even if they could Melbourne probably don’t have the salary cap room to make that happen. They’ve recruited a lot of experienced talent in recent years and have a number of young players who will be due payrises sooner or later.
Maybe some creative accounting could fit Lynch and Hogan together right now, but it would come at the risk of losing a star player down the line.
So what’s the point of the move then? It comes down to the fact that Lynch is a free agent, and Hogan isn’t.
The Dees could hypothetically sign Lynch without having to give up any trade currency, but then get a good deal at the trade table for Hogan.
Hogan hails from Western Australia, was a Fremantle fan before coming into the AFL, and whenever he is linked to a move home it is always the Dockers who are talked about.
Fremantle have a pretty good young list, but they very much need a player like him to place at the centre of their forward line, and they’d know it.
There’s no doubt in my mind that given the opportunity, Fremantle would pay Hogan whatever he’s getting at Melbourne or more and stump up two first-round picks to bring him across.
It’d be the right call.
The Dees then pitch themselves to Lynch as a club on the rise and ready to contend, something that a deep run into September this season would help with.
They play under the bright lights of the MCG and he should have just as big a media profile there as he’d have at any other side.
The big potential concern is that Gold Coast could match a bid and force a trade – but if they finish on the bottom of the ladder as so many of us are predicting, or near to, I reckon they’d be more likely to decline that right and accept pick No.2 in compensation from the AFL instead.
If all goes to plan the overall result for Melbourne is Hogan out, Lynch and two first-round picks in – effectively cancelling out the heavy price the Demons paid for Jake Lever last October.
And it would mean that Melbourne’s key forward focal point is one committed to seeing out the rest of their career at the club, as opposed to Hogan for whom the lure to return home seems likely to always be a headache.
Combine that with the talent Melbourne already have on their list, and it could set them up to dominate the league for years to come.