The coming AFL free agency and trade period may yet deliver the Fremantle Football Club the key forward it has yearned for since Matthew Pavlich’s retirement in 2016.
However, will the acquisition of Jesse Hogan remove some of the apprehension that Victorian born/based players have about moving to the west?
Fremantle struggle to recruit key forwards. They tried and did not succeed in luring: Jack Riewoldt, Travis Cloke, Mitch Clark, Charlie Dixon, James Frawley and Jared Waite just to name a few.
The reasons usually cited focus on the effects that travel has on shortening players careers, and that due to those effects’ players were able to have longer careers based in Melbourne (as well as Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide). Not even significant wage increases could persuade them otherwise.
The example was James Frawley who chose Hawthorn and a lesser contract ($2.5m over four years) over Geelong ($2.5m over five years, where his best friend Jared Rivers plays) and Fremantle ($3M over five years). Frawley chose Hawthorn and has since signed a contract extension, rather than taking the guaranteed contract at Fremantle.
Yes, there are always other factors (success, family, other interests), but Fremantle (and West Coast) don’t seem to have as much trouble keeping players that are drafted from interstate. David Mundy (Victoria) looks set to be the second 300 game player for Fremantle after Matthew Pavlich (South Australia), while at West Coast Luke Shuey (Victoria) is a Norm Smith Medalist.
Shannon Hurn (South Australia) is a premiership captain.
Fremantle’s 2018 list had 19 Western Australians, 14 Victorians, six South Australians, three Taswegians and one each from Queensland and the Northern Territory, while West Coast had 24 West Australians, 12 Victorians, seven South Australians and one from the Northern Territory. So, while the teams are dominated by West Australians, they also boast a wealth of talent from the eastern seaboard.
Looking at the number of players Fremantle have targeted, the contracts available to them, it is difficult to understand what other reasons Fremantle (and West Coast) would struggle to recruit (outside of the draft) players based in Melbourne other than career length.
Let’s look at the acquisitions (excluding drafted players) of both Fremantle and West Coast since the end of 2012.
Danyle Pearce – 2013
Scott Gumbleton – 2014
Colin Sylvia – 2014
Harley Bennell – 2016
Joel Hamling – 2017
Brad Hill -2017
Cam McCarthy -2017
Shane Kersten – 2017
Brandon Matera – 2018
Nathan Wilson – 2018
In all that’s ten recruits, eight of them from WA originally.
Jamie Cripps – 2013
Cale Morton – 2013
Sharrod Wellingham – 2013
Xavier Ellis – 2014
Elliot Yeo – 2014
Jonathan Giles – 2016
Lewis Jetta – 2016
Jack Redden – 2016
Sam Mitchell – 2017
Drew Petrie – 2017
Nathan Vardy – 2017
Brandon Ah Chee – 2018
In all that’s 12 new recruits, seven of them from WA originally.
So do the numbers show that it is a ‘go-home’ factor that allows the two West Australian clubs to recruit players form other clubs? The outliers being Danyle Pearce, Colin Sylvia, Xavier Ellis, Jonathan Giles, Jack Redden, Sam Mitchell, Drew Petrie and Nathan Vardy. Of these seven players only Redden and Vardy are still on an AFL list.
Mitchell’s acquisition for the 2017 season by West Coast was two-fold, to strengthen what was considered a weak midfield and to acquire an ageing star who brought a wealth of knowledge to the club (that knowledge helped win them the 2018 flag) to assist as a coach in the development of the midfield players around him.
Petrie and Vardy were slightly different. Their acquisition was as injury cover while the Eagles waited on Nic Naitanui’s recovery from knee surgery. Vardy had played four games for Geelong in the three previous seasons and was seeking a new start.
However, Petrie (who was Rookie Listed) like Ellis three years before him, had been discarded by his previous club, and the offer form the Eagles was the only other one available to him.
Pearce, (Port to Fremantle) and Redden (Brisbane to West Coast) seem to be the only ones that buck the trend, it may be money, it may have been a fresh start.
So what will the 2018 AFL Free Agency and Trade period throw up? There are some big names looking to leave clubs, or at the very least their managers are looking to increase their value.
Hogan, who has been courted by Fremantle before, at the end of 2016 stayed loyal to the Demons. For a young man of just 23 years of age, he has been through a lot. He left home as a 17 year old as part of the 2012 AFL Mini-Draft for Melbourne where he won the best and fairest for 2013 for the Casey Scorpions in the VFL. He kicked 39 goals in 15 games.
Injury ravaged his 2014 season, 2015 saw him win the Rising Star Award, but in 2017 his world was turned upside down when first his father passed away from cancer and then Hogan himself was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
Does Freo land the key forward they have been craving, will it make a difference? Does the acquisition of Jesse Hogan change the perception of moving west, or is it just another ‘go-home’ case?
Either way, I’m hoping Freo can deliver Jesse Hogan!