The Gold Coast Suns go into the 2021 trade period with a surfeit of picks, a full primary list and so far their retirements and delistings have only cleared up four Category A rookie list spots.
As is traditional in the week immediately following the grand final, the AFL Commission will be meeting to decide the final conditions of the imminent free agency, trade and draft periods, which open with free agency on Friday, October 1. Trading begins on Monday, October 4.
The key to the Suns’ strategy will hinge on whether the AFL Commission allows them to keep their ability to access academy players outside of the draft for a third year and their priority pick at the start of second round.
Should this remain unchanged, as expected, the Gold Coast general manager of list strategy Craig Cameron and incoming general manager of football performance Wayne Campbell will be opening for business as they hold highly desirable picks and players that already have opposition clubs circling.
List moves have been gathering pace this week, with the first delisting following four retirements announced late in the season, while the Suns’ mid-season draft pick Ned Moyle brings the total number of players to 45.
Reports indicate that the Suns have all 38 primary listed players under contract, so they will be using delisted free agency to re-rookie players in order to free up senior spots, although it remains unclear how the minimum requirement of drafting three players will apply to the Suns if they can pre-list academy rookies.
Mabior Chol’s imminent contract will require a senior spot, although rookie-listed players such as Irishman Luke Towey and project player Patrick Murtagh will likely depart after two years each on the list without playing an AFL game and having limited opportunities in the reserves.
However, it has been the candour of Craig Cameron in recent interviews that has speculation around the Suns’ pick three intensifying during the week, with Richmond and Adelaide believed to be interested in moving up the order.
As previously covered, if the Suns can pre-list academy rookies they aren’t going to use anywhere near all seven of their picks, which are currently three, 19, 22, 43, 55, 58 and 66, and may also look to trade out surplus players, further increasing their draft capital.
First-round draftees from the Rodney Eade period, Brayden Fiorini and Will Brodie, may be offered to Victorian clubs for future picks, while Jacob Townsend awaits his fate at his fourth club and veteran Rory Thompson, unseen since 2018, decides whether to continue playing after ACL reconstructions on both knees.
Ideally, the Suns enter the draft with three first-round draft picks, although some trading may need to be done on the night to get high enough up the order and it remains to be seen where any of those picks might be.
The priority of the Suns’ recruiters over the past three post-seasons has been to balance the list and put the club in the best position to land a big fish, so there is no doubt that pick three is coveted and the club can offer a large front-ended deal while all the young stars are in their early contracts.
Such a player might not materialise, but if it were to come from anywhere it would likely be a club such as this year’s finalists, particularly Sydney and the Bulldogs, which need to move large contracts in order to keep the nucleus of their sides.
The Suns’ recruiters definitely covet the number one pick and North Melbourne could be persuaded to trade out of pole should there be overs on the table, which the Suns’ picks three and 19 or three and a player such as Brodie might satisfy.
Another possibility might see the Suns facilitate a third club’s move into pick one by offering pick three in a three-club trade, but that requires an A-grade player coming to the Suns and enough extras to keep three parties happy.
Collingwood could throw the kitchen sink at getting pick one, thus getting inside any bids on Nick Daicos and have a shot at Jason Horne-Francis, so the Suns could offer pick three to North and their later picks to the Pies, who could send one of their A-graders to the Suns and a future second-rounder to North.
Of course, North could hit the bargaining table with players and picks themselves to dramatically disrupt this trade period and shake up the draft order, while Richmond is the other major player with a lot of draft capital who could do business with the Suns.
Come what may, next week the off-season begins and the annual drama fest will get into full swing. Can’t wait!