The Adelaide Crows’ pride has taken a blow after they announced at the final minute on Wednesday afternoon that they would not match St Kilda’s bid for restricted free agent Brad Crouch.
The decision represents a significant backpedal from the Crows on their original position that they would match anything less than Band 1 compensation and look to force a trade for St Kilda’s first-round pick.
The two clubs have played out a high-stakes poker game in the media over the last week, and every threat of a matched bid from Adelaide has been met with a promise to walk away from the deal if so by the Saints.
In this game of chicken it was the Crows who eventually blinked first and in doing so have made themselves look a bit silly, though not necessarily as badly as some critics might suggest.
That the Crows ultimately received only Band 3 compensation for Crouch shows just unreasonable the pipedream of getting Pick 2 for his departure was. It wasn’t wise to give fans such an inflated expectation, but they can’t be judged too harshly for not achieving an unrealistic outcome.
Instead the Crows effectively had to choose between trading with a hope of getting St Kilda’s Pick 17 or copping Pick 23 in compensation, and while 17 is of course more valuable, there are some solid arguments for doing the latter.
The first is the Adam Treloar factor. His unexpected availability has made much uncertain and, most importantly, it offered St Kilda a realistic and appealing alternative to turn their attention to should the Crows match their Crouch bid.
It would have been a virtually unprecedented move by the Saints but a genuine possibility – in fact Treloar becoming a Saint is still not off the cards even now – and it would’ve left Adelaide holding the hot potato.
Second is that the Crows can now move on to other business rather than spend the next seven days haggling with the Saints in what looked likely to be a bitter negotiation.
Jackson Hately is a name they want to get across the line, but they can also now put time into investigating any pick swap opportunities that may arise, and they have an impressive hand with which to do so.
In addition to Picks 1 and 9 in the first round, the Crows now have 22, 23, 33 and 40 in the second thanks to the exits of Crouch and Rory Atkins and their trade with the Western Bulldogs last year for Alex Keath.
The Bulldogs (Pick 14) and Collingwood (16) are two clubs who will likely be looking to trade down the order for more points to match bids on Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Reef McInnes respectively, and the Crows are in a better position to take advantage of that than anybody.
They could offer a deal of, say, 23, 30 and 50 to the Bulldogs for Pick 14, netting the Dogs nearly 500 extra points and giving the Crows selections 1, 9, 14 and 22 to kickstart their rebuild with – not too shabby.
Or they could hold those picks as late as draft night and see who offers them a good deal in the heat of the moment – daylight robbery was committed more than once in 2019 and the opportunity will no doubt arise again.
Suffice to say that while Crows fans may be disappointed now, they should wait to see what their club puts together over the next few weeks before making a final judgement.
The day also saw trading officially open, and three deals were done in an unusually busy start to the period.
Zac Langdon moved from GWS to West Coast for the price of a third-rounder, which the Giants then forwarded on to Fremantle in exchange for Jesse Hogan.
Langdon will add to West Coast’s small forward depth, and the pick is expected to help Fremantle pay for some Next Generation Academy prospects in this year’s draft, but there’s no doubting that the name to watch from these transactions is Hogan at the Giants.
That his deal was done so quickly and for so little is indicative of just how willing – motivated, even – the Dockers were to move him on. No doubt this will be an interesting deal to revisit a few years down the track.
The other trade completed saw Oleg Markov move from Richmond to Gold Coast for the price of a future third-round selection.
That’s a pretty solid return for the Tigers, who drafted Markov at Pick 50 five years ago and will likely get a selection around the same mark or higher in next year’s draft depending on where the Suns finish up, while Gold Coast obviously see something valuable in the player they’ve acquired.
But while deals were being done and rumours revealed, some important news went mostly under the radar.
The AFL confirmed that from 2021 they will be significantly scaling back the Next Generation Academies, preventing clubs from matching bids on academy players in the early portion of the draft.
No change will be made to this year’s draft, but in 2021 NGA players will be on the open market so long as they’re taken within the first 20 picks of the draft. Then in 2022 this will expand to the top 40.
It means the top NGA talents will be freed up for any club with the right picks to secure while still providing some incentive for AFL clubs to take a chance on lower-rated talents from non-traditional backgrounds.
It’s a big win for those who want an uncompromised draft – though there won’t be any changes made to the father-son rule or the northern states academies.
The league has also put forward a proposal to clubs around a ‘waiver wire’ system that would essentially replace the midseason draft and give clubs three opportunities during the year to replace inactive players with new rookies.
After Rounds 4, 8 and 12 clubs would be able to submit names they wish to sign to the AFL with the players then allocated using a rolling priority list based on reverse ladder order at the time.
If, for example, Adelaide were to find themselves in 18th after four rounds and were one of multiple clubs looking to sign a particular rookie, they would get first preference but would then slide back to 18th in the priority order.
While it’s not clear yet whether or not the proposal will get up – and if it does, whether it will be implemented for the 2021 season – it could be a game-changer, especially next year.
Given that many prospects have lacked the opportunity to play regular football this year it seems likely some good talents – who might have been draft bolters given the opportunity – will get overlooked and instead have to make their mark in the NAB Cup or at state level in 2021.
That could mean an unusually talented crop of unsigned players available to snatch up next year, whether it’s via this waiver wire, a mid-season draft or any other mechanism.