When West Coast traded away their 2019 and 2020 first-round draft picks to secure Tim Kelly from Geelong, they potentially traded their future for the present.
For a team that lifted the premiership cup in 2018 and looked like serious contenders in 2019 until they blew their top-four chance with a shock loss to Hawthorn in Round 23, it seems like a relatively well thought out move.
They are bringing a mature-age midfielder that has just won All Australian selection back to Western Australia. Plus there’s the expected return of Nic Naitanui, although we are yet to see what impact two knee reconstructions will have on a 201cm, 110kg ruckman, who relies on his leap to dominate ruck contests, factoring in he has only played 35 games in the last four seasons.
In securing Kelly from Geelong, the Eagles parted with three picks in the 2019 draft (first and second round to Geelong and third round to Essendon) and their 2020 first-round pick. They did receive a 2019 third-round pick from Essendon and a 2020 third-round pick from Geelong as change for their payment.
In a competitive market where teams look for any advantage they can get, it seems in their desperation to land Tim Kelly for much more than they could have traded away for him in 2018 when Geelong’s demands were only one top ten pick. In 2018 the Eagles could not deliver as their offer of picks 20 and 22 fell way short to both Geelong and other clubs as third parties, and may have cost the Eagles far less than they eventually gave up.
This is where we ask, should the other clubs now hold the West Coast Eagles to ransom?
In August 2015, AFL Counsel Andrew Dillon announced regulations that require clubs to select a minimum of two first-round draft picks in every four-year period.
With the Eagles having selected only one first-round draft pick in the last three national drafts (Jarrod Brander at 13 in 2017), unless they can secure a trade for another club’s first-round draft pick in 2020 – or the less likely option, another club bids on one of their next generation academy prospects (there are eight of them) or a father/son eligible player inside the first round and the Eagles match that bid – then they stand to feel the wrath of the AFL.
The trade for Kelly may end up costing the Eagles. The punishment is yet to be seen, but it would be the first of its kind under current AFL regulations, and thus would probably be harsh to ensure a strong precedent.
The rule was introduced by the AFL to prevent clubs from continually trading away first-round draft picks for ready-made players. Its purpose was to equalise the competition by stopping power clubs from trading for the best players, but also to prevent clubs from putting themselves into a hole both financially through total player payments and age, by ensuring a constant injection of youth.
So did the Eagles pay overs for Kelly? The real payment might come as they try to trade their way into the first round of the 2020 draft. Clubs will target top-end talent. Players such as Andrew Gaff could be forced out of the club.
Kelly’s trade demand (2263 draft value index points in 2019 plus a 2020 first-round pick to come) represents a shift in the last two years, with clubs recognising the value of ready-made players over draft picks.
Essendon sit in the same position as the Eagles, having used no first-round draft pick in the period from 2017 to 2019. The Bombers do however still hold their first-round pick in 2020, ensuring them at least one selection. They just need to find a second one.
The ace up their sleeve could be Joe Daniher wanting to leave for Sydney again, or next generation academy player Cody Brand from the Calder Cannons.
A potential trade for Daniher is likely to net at least one first-round draft pick should he return to his All Australian form from 2017, and any bid on Brand in the top 19 picks would also secure another first-round pick. Don’t be surprised to see Adrian Dodoro try and turn the Bombers’ first-round pick into possibly two.