Having announced mid-season an end to Tony Elshaug’s tenure as list manager, St Kilda last week confirmed the appointment of former Adelaide player James Gallagher to the role – and it would appear he’s already getting busy.
Maybe it’s just coincidence, but only a handful of days later, rumour broke that the Saints are targetting 2012 premiership Swan Dan Hannebery, reportedly putting a five-year contract on the table to tempt him home.
I’ve seen a few on social media criticise the move in the time since as an act of ‘desperation’, targetting a ‘washed up’ player. But personally, I reckon it has the potential to be a canny roll of the dice.
It’s no secret that the star Swan’s 2018 form has been well below the standard we expect from him based on an otherwise exemplary career up to this point.
Hannebery’s resume boasts the 2010 Rising Star Award, three All Australian jackets, the 2015 AFLCA Player of the Year award, and of course a premiership medal in 2012.
His averages of 18 disposals, 2.3 tackles and 2.1 clearances per game in 2018, however, are his lowest in every category since his debut season in 2009.
At least part of this is the result of injury – a combination of groin and calf problems have prevented him from enjoying any real continuity this year, and he’s played just 11 of a possible 19 games.
There’s no doubt Hannebery would arrive at St Kilda with some doubts attached, at least in the eyes of us outsiders. But for the same reasons, he might be their perfect fit.
Hannebery probably isn’t the player Saints fans think of when they imagine their ideal recruit. They’d probably like someone a little younger, a little more blue-chip, arriving in peak form. It’s no secret they made a target of Josh Kelly last year.
Kelly didn’t come though and the disappointing but undeniable reality is that players of that ilk are not going to fall into their lap at the trade table. As I wrote a few weeks ago, the AFL trade market simply isn’t set up to flow in that direction.
St Kilda’s strategy to rise up the ladder should be the same strategy that every club should use: draft, and hold. But they’ve been doing that a few years in a row now, and both fans and the club are getting antsy at the lack of progress.
Their list lacks leadership, so bringing in a mature player with star quality and the ability to inspire teammates is a logical step.
The problem is those players all want to go teams poised for finals and flags, and the Saints will do themselves no good by cracking on to targets who are out of their league.
For example, it’s believed St Kilda targeted Rory Sloane as a free agent this year, but despite him being a native Victorian and a fan of the club growing up, it never seemed likely.
Sloane ultimately opted to re-sign with Adelaide, but most of the talk before then was that if he came home to a Victorian club, it would be Hawthorn.
Hannebery might have a question mark or two hanging over him, but that’s exactly why he might be gettable.
The big question should not be whether Hanneberry is a good fit for the Saints, but instead a question of how much he will cost. From a risk-reward perspective, there’s plenty of potential for reward, but we need to know the price to judge the risk.
Are the Saints look at trading away their first selection either this year or next to land Hannebery? If so then it’s an automatic no – they’re going to have a a high pick this year and next year’s might not be much different. It’d be a brainless move.
I doubt the Swans are going to ask for that though. On the rare occasion that players do want out of the club, they’ve typically been happy to accept relative unders in order to make the process as painless as possible for player and club.
Consider, for example, that they accepted the low price of pick 14 for Tom Mitchell at the end of 2016 when he left for Hawthorn, or that they were willing to delist Tim Membrey at the end of 2014 so that he could sign as a delisted free agent with St Kilda when a deal could not be worked out.
The Swans would presumably have committed to a significantly valuable contract for Hannebery given he last signed when he was at the peak of his powers, and if their salary cap is looking a bit tight – or even if it isn’t – they might see letting him go as a good way to clear space.
Maybe they need to do something like that just to release the pressure valve, or maybe it’s something that would give them the opportunity to be more aggressive in pursuing new talent from opposition clubs this offseason and in the future. They’re already known to be courting Darcy Moore.
St Kilda have already traded away their 2018 second-round pick, so I’d expect if a deal is done then it’d be for the Saints’ 2019 second-rounder, a fair price especially if the addition of Hannebery (and a looming reshuffle of assistant coaches) can see the club jump a few spots up the table in 2019.
Depending on just what Sydney’s balance sheet looks like and how motivated they are to sell, it might even be cheaper than that.
If I were the Saints, I’d also be talking to Nic Newman – he could probably be thrown into the deal for free – and with Jarrad McVeigh, though he would presumably come separately as a free agent if the move eventuated.
Get Hannebery and maybe something extra for a future second-round pick and it could be a bargain. If he gets back to his best or close to, then Hannebery is exactly the kind of player St Kilda’s list needs.
In addition to his value as a player alone, Hannebery who would be a significant boon to St Kilda’s leadership stocks and is the type to have a genuine impact on his fellow players.
Think back to his performance in the 2016 grand final. For those who don’t remember, Hannebery went down with what looked like a serious knee injury. There were fears he had done an ACL – luckily, he had not, but no one expected to see him back on the field.
With the game fading out of the Swans’ grasp, Hannebery forced his way back onto the field and involved himself in the play.
No, it didn’t win Sydney the flag – but it was one of the more Herculean and inspirational efforts I’ve ever seen from an individual player.
It’s clear Hannebery needs a change of fortune. That could come in a variety of different ways, and a fresh start at a new home is just one of them. But it’s one he definitely should consider, especially if it comes with extra contract security.
Hannebery is already contracted until the end of 2021 with the Swans, so the deal from the Saints would give him a further two years guaranteed until the end of 2023.
Maybe Dan Hannebery needs a change like St Kilda. I reckon St Kilda could use a change like Dan Hannebery.