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AFL free agency state of play: Who's available and where they'll end up

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30th September, 2021
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The 2021 AFL free agency period finally kicks off today.

Barely a week after we crowned Melbourne premiers, the silly season is already upon us. From today until next Friday, October 8, unrestricted free agents and restricted free agents and are all free to find new homes.

What’s the difference between unrestricted and restricted? It doesn’t really matter this year; there’s only one restricted free agent and he (George Hewett) is not going to have his offer matched by his current side.

The trade period itself doesn’t get underway until Monday, October 4, but there are still some interesting names who will find new homes between now and then.

If you’re after a quick update before the frenzy begins, or you don’t pay attention to this stuff all year, this is the place to get up to speed.

So, without further ado…

Adelaide Crows

Ben Davis
Davis qualifies for unrestricted free agency having been previously delisted. He played a career-high four games at the end of the year to bring his career tally to six and could earn an extension with the Crows. It’s hard to see his name being brought up in any movement rumours though.

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Jake Kelly
Kelly is on his way to Essendon and, as an unrestricted free agent, there is nothing the Crows can do. The rebounding defender had a fine 2021 and, at 26 years old, could be an invaluable addition to a Bombers side looking to notch consecutive finals appearances for the first time since 2004.

Tom Lynch
Will join North Melbourne in primarily a coaching role, but reportedly with the option to play in the VFL. Sounds a bit like Tyson Goldsack at Port Adelaide this year.

Daniel Talia
Was being looked into by both Geelong and Richmond after Adelaide cast him aside. His door to the Tigers closed with the news Robbie Tarrant was crossing, but Lachie Henderson’s retirement potentially opens the door at the Cats.


Brisbane Lions

Connor Ballenden
Another free agent thanks to being delisted previously. Only played the one game in 2021 and looks at risk but, with Eric Hipwood set to miss almost all of next season, there could be another one-year deal in store for the Lions Academy key forward.


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Carlton

Levi Casboult
Is officially on the hunt for a new home after the Blues elected to let him go. It looks, at this stage, like his only real option is Brisbane as a one-year replacement for the injured Hipwood – but he’s not the only key forward the Lions are sussing out.

Oscar McDonald
Made history in Round 1 by becoming the first medical sub to come on but, despite impressing with nine disposals and two goals in a half, never played again. You’d imagine he’s only an outside chance of finding a third home if the Blues don’t offer him a new deal.


Collingwood

Scott Pendlebury
Made headlines earlier this year when he claimed he wanted to “step away” from the Magpies and gain some experience with another club. However, he later clarified that those comments were in relation to a coaching career once his playing days are over. He’ll re-sign shortly.

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Josh Thomas
Finally, we have someone with a bit of a story. Thomas had a pretty good year up forward for a Magpies team that finished 17th, averaging 13 disposals and kicking 12 goals in 20 games. However, the unrestricted free agent has reportedly not been offered a deal for 2022 and beyond. He may be yet another victim of Collingwood’s bulging salary cap.

No suitors have come forward yet and turning 30 today (happy birthday Josh, we share a birthday!) doesn’t help his cause, but surely there’d be interest him from a club in need of a small forward?


Essendon

Dylan Clarke
Has been told he’ll need to wait until after the trade period to learn if he’s being offered a new deal. Only played the four games in 2021 so is unlikely to attract heavy rival interest.

Martin Gleeson
Like Clarke, Gleeson got cut and re-rookied last-offseason and may need to hope for the same to happen again after only managing the four games. Still only 27, but hasn’t played a huge number of games for the last three years.

David Zaharakis
No suitors have emerged for Essendon’s forever-ANZAC Day hero. He has publicly stated he’s keen to continue his career elsewhere, but at 31 years old and with only 16 games to his name over the last two years, that looks to be a long shot.

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Fremantle


The only player on Fremantle’s list without a contract for next season is Adam Cerra, who is going to be the biggest fish in the trade period when it begins next week.

Geelong Cats

Oscar Brownless
Four years on the list have come and gone for the son of Billy and he is yet to make his debut. It’ll be a case of the Cats extending him once more or bust you’d imagine.

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Gold Coast Suns

Jacob Townsend
It’s not looking good for the cult hero journeyman, with Gold Coast needing to make cuts to their playing list to bring it in line with size restrictions. Only played the two games in 2021 and would be long odds to continue his career at a fifth club.


GWS Giants

Matt Buntine
Is only 27 and could have something to offer another club, but he’s never been able to string a full season together and his recent delisting may spell the end.

Daniel Lloyd
Kicked a career-high 20 goals in 2021 and continues to quietly – but effectively – go about his business. There’s likely little risk of a rival club poaching him given he’ll be 30 soon, but expect to see the Giants work something out with the small forward soon.

Shane Mumford
Is expected to retire, but there is still a slim chance his career continues into a remarkable fourth season after he retired for the first time in 2017.

Sam Reid
After first being delisted back in 2013, Reid has done a remarkable job to revive his career and play 79 games since resuming his career in 2016. Insists he still has the drive to play on in 2022, but he’ll be 32 at that point and a new home seems unlikely.

Zachary Sproule
Broke out in a big way towards the latter half of the season. Another free agent thanks to being delisted before, but will almost certainly extend his stay at the Giants.

Jake Stein
Like Sproule, finished off 2021 in excellent form – especially against the Swans in the elimination final – and will likely earn an extension in the coming days.


Hawthorn

Tim O’Brien
Has been told by Hawthorn he’ll need to wait to find out if he’s getting a new deal or not. Port Adelaide are keen on another key position player and are thought to be interested, but they are reportedly keen on playing him at both ends of the ground. If O’Brien is happy with that, there’s a chance the native South Australian could be on his way to Alberton.


Melbourne

Majak Daw
All reports claim the Demons are keen to retain Daw for another season as important ruck backup. Their ruck department is supremely talented thanks to Max Gawn and Luke Jackson, but there’s not a lot of depth beneath it, so Daw is a good experienced option to have handy.


North Melbourne

Shaun Atley
An unheralded fixture on the North Melbourne team sheet for so long, Atley is yet to receive an offer for 2022 despite playing 19 games in what was one of the better years of his career. No suitors have emerged, but there could be some interest in him elsewhere with the Kangas aren’t keen.

Tom Campbell
Just the nine games in 2021 for the 29-year-old and he’s waiting to hear whether he’ll get a new deal. Like many of this free agents, it looks to be a case of extension or delisting.

Trent Dumont
Recent reports claim the 26-year-old is becoming less likely to remain at North Melbourne. Played the 14 games in 2021, so he was hardly starved of opportunity, but recent mail suggests he may be on his way to Essendon.

Robbie Tarrant
Will hop to Richmond on a two-year deal as soon as the AFL lets the Tigers lodge the paperwork.


Port Adelaide

Hamish Hartlett
The 31-year-old is happy to play anywhere in 2022 if it means continuing his career. It’s hard to see which clubs are a good fit for him at this stage, but you never know.

Steven Motlop
Played 19 games this season and upped both is marking and pressure games. But, at 30, hasn’t received a new deal and faces a nervous wait.

Boyd Woodcock
Managed six games for the Power this year and, at 21, you’d imagine he’s done enough to earn himself an extension beyond this season.


Richmond

Derek Eggmolesse-Smith
Was only a last-minute addition to Richmond’s list this season and, after playing just the one game, looks likely to be on the hunt for a new home again.

Ben Miller
Made his debut in Richmond’s last home-and-away game of the season, so you’d imagine he’s not on the chopping block. In any case, he’ll be made to wait for a new deal.


St Kilda

Luke Dunstan
Won’t be returning to the Saints in 2022. Gold Coast have publicly declared their interest in him, while he’s also been linked with Carlton.

Paul Hunter
Despite breaking out for seven games in 2021, the 28-year-old ruckman will face a nervous wait given the Saints have been linked to other ruckmen in the upcoming trade period.

Darragh Joyce
Another player who will have to wait until the trade period is done to find out whether they have a contract for 2022.

Seb Ross
Reports about Ross’ future have been conflicted all season. Some claim he’s been keen to test the free agency waters, whereas others claim the Saints are very confident they’ll retain him. I’m leaning towards the latter.


Sydney Swans

Sam Reid
Is not getting talked enough about in my opinion. He’s a 29-year-old key position player who can play at either end of the ground and pinch-hit in the ruck – and he very much looks to be on the outer at the Swans. With a salary cap crunch to worry about and plenty of younger players in his role already locked away, I suspect he could be on his way to another destination.

Brisbane seem like a good fit, but there would be a long list of clubs who could benefit from having a player of his ilk on the list.

George Hewett
The only restricted free agent left on this year’s list and he will head to Carlton on a lucrative deal. Expect the Swans to announce they’re not matching the bid almost as soon as the Blues announce they’ve placed it.


West Coast Eagles

Shannon Hurn
He won’t be going anywhere. The former skipper will sign a one-year deal with the Eagles shortly.

Mark Hutchings
The one-time premier tagger was delisted after back-to-back three-game campaigns, but wants to play on. Might find a new home hard to find at 30 years old, however.

Jamaine Jones
Had a breakout season and will be rewarded with a new deal very soon.

Josh Kennedy
Kennedy’s situation has become a lot more interesting in the last 48 hours. It was previously seen a formality that the two-time Coleman medallist would sign a one-year extension with the Eagles, but the deal is in front of him and he’s not put pen to paper. Retirement is a serious possibility.


Western Bulldogs

Ben Cavarra
Looks to be down the pecking order at the Bulldogs after playing just one game for the season and there’d be a few names ahead of him in the small forward market. Might get a reprieve if Mitch Wallis finds a new home.

Will Hayes
The Bulldogs’ super-stacked midfield meant the 26-year-old didn’t get a game all season. Could be of interest to some teams in need of midfield depth given his age, but he’ll be waiting until the trade period is wrapped up.

Roarke Smith
Had the best year of his career in 2021 and it’d be highly unlikely to see anything other than an extension happening.

Mitch Wallis
Led the club in goalkicking last year, but found himself well and truly on the outer this year and played just six games despite being elevated to vice captain. He’s been linked to Essendon and Gold Coast for much of the season and a move to either destination is looking likely.

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