The Gold Coast Suns have been assured of their third year of concessions, which could present opportunities for the rest of the competition ahead of the draft.
The AFL commission has granted the Suns their vital concession to retain the ability to pre-list academy players outside of the draft as well as keep the priority pick at the start of the second round.
With a boom crop of youngsters coming through the Suns’ academy in 2021, the news makes the club’s off-season strategy clear as they execute the final phase of their rebuild.
Pick 19, as things stand, was last year off the table in terms of trading. However, this year the pick may be used in whatever fashion the club decides, be it trade currency or draft pick.
Perhaps the most valuable of all of the concessions is the pre-listing of academy players, which has proven so valuable in building a group of young players that can progress with the top draft picks.
So far the Suns have added five players to their list through this concession, with two players coming through the Darwin academy.
This year as many as 11 players are under consideration, with AFL academy members Ned Stevens and Austin Harris at the front of the queue, while Bodhi Uwland and Will Bella have had outstanding seasons.
Interestingly, the Suns now have seven picks in the draft and will only likely use three of them, so there is an opportunity for opposition clubs to trade back for coveted draft points.
First in line will be the grand final-losing Western Bulldogs, whose favourite son Luke Darcy’s son Sam is rated in the top picks. Therefore, the Dogs’ pick 17 will surely be available to a club offering picks that can improve their bid-matching position.
Of course, Collingwood’s pick 22 will also be on offer for trade as they look to match a bid on Nick Daicos, which will send them into deficit should they not be able to find the points to match a bid.
Another club looking to trade out for extra picks is St Kilda, whose pick nine could be traded for the Suns’ pair of early second rounders, yet the aggressive position from the Saints over Ben King could cloud negotiations.
The Suns are currently in the first phase of list culling, with four retirements and one delisting, but it is expected that the club will be looking to trade and delist more players, with several offered to be re-rookied in order to honour contracts.
The main problem for the club with their policy of contracting all primary listed players is that they face another salary dump because even re-rookied players must be paid out and with 49 players on the list they must pay three to six more salaries than other clubs under the same cap.
Irish B rookie Luke Towey will soon be told not to return, while at least two other rookies will be delisted to make room for pre-listed academy rookies and any trade or free agency targets.
As to that, it remains to be seen whether the club will add to Mabior Chol as a mature recruit since their primary list is stacked and they need to find three more places for the draft.
Once again, the Gold Coast look to be major players in the draft as the annual dance intensifies.