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AFL trades 2020 report card: Every club graded

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12th November, 2020
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After a frenetic, dramatic, and of course controversial final day of the 2020 AFL trade period, the competition’s player movement window has come to a close and it’s time to take stock of what each club has gained or lost.

Of course, this must come with the caveat that the AFL will soon open up windows for draft pick trades both prior to and live during the 2020 AFL draft, and some of these clubs will no doubt make significant moves between now and then that could reshape what we think of them.

Judging the trade moves of AFL clubs this early is undoubtedly a fool’s errand, luckily, that is a field I specialise in. Without further ado, here is my take on the 2020 trade returns of all 18 AFL clubs.

ADELAIDE CROWS

Players
In Out
Rory Atkins
Brad Crouch
Kyle Hartigan
0 players 3 players
2020 picks
In Out
23 33
40 50
1244 DVI 836 DVI
2021 picks
In Out
Melbourne Round 2
Hawthorn Round 4
Melbourne Round 4
~921 DVI 0 DVI

Moved on a few want-away players and got some handy but not amazing selections in return. Didn’t secure a trade for Jackson Hately but will get him in the pre-season draft, which is a good get.

Lost a bit of face when their bluff was called in the Brad Crouch deal, but overall they did solidly well. It’ll be interesting to see if they look to move up the draft order.

Grade: C

BRISBANE LIONS

Players
In Out
Nakia Cockatoo Stefan Martin
Joe Daniher Alex Witherden
2 players 2 players
2020 picks
In Out
25 18
53 19
58 43
63 70
68 86
69
1379 DVI 2350 DVI
2021 picks
In Out
Melbourne Round 1 Round 2
West Coast Round 3 Round 4
~1935 DVI ~812 DVI

Gave up essentially nothing in terms of draft capital to secure two talented by injury-prone players in Daniher and Cockatoo. They have a reputation for rehabbing that type of recruit and if successful with those two they will be rewarded handsomely.

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That said the salary cap space needed to recruit Daniher in particular probably prevented them being able to keep Witherden on the books. He seems like a quality young talent but they don’t seem too perturbed to have let him go, and presumably have their reasons.

There are no guarantees on their recruits, but I like the potential here. Pick swaps could prove canny too.

Grade: B

CARLTON BLUES

Players
In Out
Lachie Fogarty
Adam Saad
Zac Williams
3 players 0 players
2020 picks
In Out
38 8
48 30
78 51
87
767 DVI 2439 DVI
2021 picks
In Out
0 DVI 0 DVI

Probably gave a little overs to get Saad to the club in their trade with Essendon, but when you factor in getting Williams for free (and ditto Jack Martin last year), it more than balances out in their favour.

I really like all three recruits – they’re all quick and they boast some genuine class. I’m excited to see how they integrate into the team next year.

Grade: A

COLLINGWOOD MAGPIES

Players
In Out
Atu Bosenavulagi
Tom Phillips
Jaidyn Stephenson
Adam Treloar
0 players 4 players
2020 picks
In Out
14 39
65 42
70 0
1290 DVI 841 DVI
2021 picks
In Out
Western Bulldogs Round 2
~703 DVI 0 DVI
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The most interesting club of this year’s trade period, but for all the wrong reasons. It was really just a debacle from beginning to end.

Their trades to move on Treloar, Stephenson and Phillips had all the hallmarks of salary dumps, and if reports are to be believed they could pay Treloar as much as $1.5 million to play for an opposition side over the next five years.

List manager Ned Guy’s claims after that trade period closed that it was “not a fire sale at all” and that talk of a salary cap crisis was “a bit of a beat up” are unavoidably incongruous with the deals as they were done, and came across as disingenuous at best.

The Treloar and Stephenson transactions, which saw nine draft selections exchanged in addition to the relevant players, give off an unpleasant odour – as if the club tacked extra picks onto those deals in the hopes it might disguise just how little of a return they actually received.

If half of what has been said about how their exits were handled by Nathan Buckley and the club is true then something is deeply rotten at Collingwood. They have burnt up just about all of their fans’ good will over the past fortnight.

Grade: F

ESSENDON BOMBERS

Players
In Out
Jye Caldwell Joe Daniher
Nick Hind Orazio Fantasia
Peter Wright Shaun McKernan
Adam Saad
3 players 4 players
2020 picks
In Out
7 48
8 67
44 73
77 78
87
3557 DVI 380 DVI
2021 picks
In Out
Port Adelaide Round 3 Round 2
Round 4
~344 DVI ~812 DVI

A typically enigmatic trade period from Essendon, who once again seemed to have done good business but without going so far as to actually offer a convincing case that the club is headed in the right direction.

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Of all the players who’ve wanted to come to Essendon in recent years, Josh Dunkley was the one who finally seemed like a perfect fit for their list – but they were unwilling to pay the admittedly steep price set on his services by the Western Bulldogs.

That said, they got best-case-scenario value for all three of Joe Daniher, Adam Saad and Orazio Fantasia, while also landing a really promising young talent in Jye Caldwell and filling a major list need with Peter Wright.

The deal they didn’t get done may or may not prove to be a significant missed opportunity – only time will tell. But what they did get done, on the other hand, all looks to be to their advantage.

Grade: B

FREMANTLE DOCKERS

Players
In Out
Jesse Hogan
0 players 1 player
2020 picks
In Out
55
207 DVI 0 DVI
2021 picks
In Out
0 DVI 0 DVI

Would not have been involved at all were it not for the trade to move Hogan on to GWS. Looking at it from an outsider perspective I feel that keeping Hogan another year would’ve been a worthwhile experiment, but clearly the club feels differently.

Overall their list appears to be on the right track, so a lack of activity isn’t necessarily concerning. It’ll be interesting to see if they get more involved between now and the end of the draft.

Grade: C

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GEELONG CATS

Players
In Out
Jeremy Cameron Nakia Cockatoo
Shaun Higgins Lachie Fogarty
Isaac Smith
3 players 2 players
2020 picks
In Out
51 13
15
20
38
259 DVI 3701 DVI
2021 picks
In Out
Essendon Round 2 Round 4
GWS Round 2
Melbourne Round 3
~1750 DVI ~109 DVI

Faced yet again with the choice between going to the draft or topping up with mature recruits, they could not possibly have steered more decisively in one direction, signing two players in the 30+ category and trading out three first round picks.

They’re entering uncharted waters. Their last five teams of 2020 were the five oldest teams in VFL/AFL history and these moves make it abundantly clear that they’re not planning to get any younger next year.

Ominous as that may sound, I believe they’ve made the right moves. A cliff is coming either way so they might as well push every chip they have into the middle of the table – and Jeremy Cameron is a mighty fine hand of cards to gambling on.

Grade: A

GOLD COAST SUNS

Players
In Out
Rory Atkins Peter Wright
Oleg Markov
2 players 1 player
2020 picks
In Out
0 DVI 0 DVI
2021 picks
In Out
Essendon Round 4 Round 3
~109 DVI ~344 DVI

Quiet trade periods are a rarity when it comes to the Gold Coast and no doubt they found this change of pace refreshing. Can’t say I’m buying stock in either of their recruits, but they haven’t put a foot wrong either.

Grade: C

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GWS GIANTS

Players
In Out
Jesse Hogan Jye Caldwell
Braydon Preuss Jeremy Cameron
Aidan Corr
Zac Langdon
Zac Williams
2 players 5 players
2020 picks
In Out
10 31
13 44
15 74
20
29
5284 DVI 968 DVI
2021 picks
In Out
Geelong Round 4 Round 2
~109 DVI ~703 DVI

Permit me just one paragraph in which to toot my own horn: remember when I said Jeremy Cameron’s could make history as the first ever matched free agency bid, and/or the first player to be traded for three first-round draft picks? Well, I told you so.

Moving on from that: The Giants definitely deserve some plaudits for the steely nerves they showed in prising those three early selections out of the Cats, and I like the additions of Jesse Hogan and Braydon Preuss too.

The problem is that they’re right back where they’ve been so many times before – holding a hot hand of draft picks when they’d be much better served by some bankable, blue-chip mature role-playing talent.

They got good value for the players who moved on, but it’ll be worth little if two years from now they are once again watching their draftees walk out the door, as Jye Caldwell and Jackson Hately have just done.

Grade: B

HAWTHORN HAWKS

Players
In Out
Kyle Hartigan Isaac Smith
Tom Phillips
2 players 1 player
2020 picks
In Out
46 65
331 DVI 90 DVI
2021 picks
In Out
Round 4
0 DVI ~109 DVI

Getting a higher compensation pick for Smith (46) than they spent to trade for Phillips (65) is certainly good business, and Hartigan for essentially nothing is hard to criticise too.

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That being said, it feels like the kind of trade period you have when your list is humming along well – which theirs isn’t. They’ve done little to change direction here.

I would’ve liked to see them make more of an effort to turn the list over and improve their draft hand. Perhaps they’ll pursue the latter in coming weeks, but for now, I’m underwhelmed.

Grade: D

MELBOURNE DEMONS

Players
In Out
Ben Brown Mitch Hannan
Braydon Preuss
1 player 2 players
2020 picks
In Out
18 26
19 53
28 68
50 69
2883 DVI 1070 DVI
2021 picks
In Out
Brisbane Round 2 Round 1
Western Bulldogs Round 3 Round 2
North Melbourne Round 4 Round 3
Round 4
~1156 DVI ~2747 DVI

Executed a really interesting and somewhat against-the-grain strategy by being very active in pick swaps and trading heavily into this year’s draft.

Given the large number of academy prospects in the early part of the draft and the uncertainty over Victorian draft prospects due to COVID, most clubs seem wary of investing in 2020 picks but the Dees are zigging where others have zagged.

Whether or not that’s a smart idea we won’t know for some time, but I admire their willingness to clash with the consensus.

Brown has the potential to be one of 2021’s most important recruits, the kind that could tie their at-times dysfunctional forward line together – and they were able to secure him for a very reasonable price.

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They’ll be 2021’s chief death-riding target as they’ve already traded out their Round 1, 2, 3 and 4 picks in next year’s draft.

Grade: B

NORTH MELBOURNE KANGAROOS

Players
In Out
Atu Bosenavulagi Ben Brown
Aidan Corr Shaun Higgins
Jaidyn Stephenson
Lachie Young
4 players 2 players
2020 picks
In Out
30 28
39 63
1075 DVI 789 DVI
2021 picks
In Out
Brisbane Round 4 Round 4
~109 DVI ~109 DVI

I’ve had my say on the Brown trade more than enough times before that there’s little value in repeating my views here – suffice to say the club has a long way to go to convince me it was the right path to go down.

The Stephenson deal could prove to be excellent value if he makes good on his talent. I’d be wary of saying that the two transactions balance each other out, but this one certainly eases some of the pain of losing a fan favourite.

Certainly had some highs and some lows but overall it looks like solid progress in the early stages of a rebuild.

Grade: C

PORT ADELAIDE POWER

Players
In Out
Aliir Aliir
Orazio Fantasia
2 players 0 players
2020 picks
In Out
73 29
9 DVI 653 DVI
2021 picks
In Out
Round 2
Round 3
0 DVI ~1047 DVI
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A really promising effort from a premiership contender. In Aliir and Fantasia they’ve added mature players who can both bring something valuable to an already strong team.

Won’t have a lot of involvement in the next two drafts, but securing both recruits while still keeping their hands on their 2021 first-rounder was a good effort. Made Adrian Dodoro blink – always a win.

Grade: B

RICHMOND TIGERS

Players
In Out
Jack Higgins
Oleg Markov
0 players 2 players
2020 picks
In Out
17 21
1025 DVI 878 DVI
2021 picks
In Out
St Kilda Round 2 Round 4
Gold Coast Round 3
~1047 DVI ~109 DVI

A quiet but professional effort from the reigning premiers. Eased the passage of some fringe players to clubs where they’ll get more opportunity, did pretty well in terms of what they got in return.

Grade: B

ST KILDA SAINTS

Players
In Out
Brad Crouch Nick Hind
Jack Higgins
Shaun McKernan
3 players 1 player
2020 picks
In Out
21 17
67 77
74
947 DVI 1025 DVI
2021 picks
In Out
Richmond Round 4 Round 2
~109 DVI ~703 DVI

Added more mature talent in Crouch and Higgins to a team that is on the rise, which was undoubtedly their objective – and did it without having to give up much in the way of draft capital.

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The question mark is over just how well those new recruits complement the existing team. They’re both quality players but neither exactly feels like something the Saints were crying out for.

Still, I felt the same way about some of their 2019 recruits – and they wound up fitting into the team much better than I expected. They’ve earned a little a faith.

Grade: B

SYDNEY SWANS

Players
In Out
Tom Hickey Aliir Aliir
1 player 1 player
2020 picks
In Out
31 25
34 58
43 62
60
1672 DVI 1049 DVI
2021 picks
In Out
Round 3
0 DVI ~344 DVI

Hickey fills their need for a ready-to-go ruckman – albeit only being a short-term solution at the age of 29 – and their shuffling of picks has set them up well for matching bids on academy prospects Braeden Campbell and Errol Gulden.

Sad to say goodbye to a fan favourite in Aliir, and didn’t necessarily extract maximum value for him, but overall look to be progressing well.

Grade: C

WEST COAST EAGLES

Players
In Out
Zac Langdon Tom Hickey
Alex Witherden
2 players 1 player
2020 picks
In Out
62 34
86 55
60
123 DVI 895 DVI
2021 picks
In Out
Port Adelaide Round 2 Round 3
Sydney Round 3
~1047 DVI ~344 DVI
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Didn’t seem likely to be involved much at all this year given how much of their draft capital was chewed up by last season’s trade for Tim Kelly, so did better than expected to land two handy recruits.

Witherden evidently has some knocks on him but has also shown rare talent for a player so young. An excellent understudy for Shannon Hurn at a bargain price.

Grade: B

WESTERN BULLDOGS

Players
In Out
Mitch Hannan Lachie Young
Stefan Martin
Adam Treloar
3 players 1 player
2020 picks
In Out
26 14
33
42
1687 DVI 1161 DVI
2021 picks
In Out
Round 2
Round 3
0 DVI ~1047 DVI

No club was more agile in this year’s trade period than the Western Bulldogs who worked their way through a surprise trade request from Josh Dunkley and put themselves in position to be the beneficiaries when Collingwood unexpectedly pushed out Adam Treloar.

In my view the Bulldogs made the right move by refusing to budge on their demand of two early selections for Dunkley. It would’ve been overs, sure, but for a contracted player they have every right to set the price as they please – and say no if not satisfied.

Treloar is a genuinely exciting recruit, and one that they were not only able to get at a very cheap price, but in doing the deal also successfully secured some crucial pick swaps that will make it much easier to match a draft bid on academy prospect Jamarra Ugle-Hagan.

The potential problem is that one plus one does not always equal two, and while their list of midfield names now looks seriously sexy on paper it remains unclear just how they will strike the right balance on the field.

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Dunkley’s trade request, after all, was motivated at least in part by a frustration with a lack of midfield time – something that isn’t suddenly going to become more richly available at the Bulldogs after adding another prolific on-baller.

I’m not convinced as yet that all of these puzzle pieces will fit together, but if they do it will be something to behold – and I love the audacity.

Grade: B