“I never thought we’d be in this position. That’s probably one of the uncomfortable realities that I’ve had to face, because I thought that chapter was done in terms of contract stuff.”
Brodie Grundy, a football purist, dual best and fairest, and Collingwood loyalist, was confronted by a sobering truth in last year’s trade period: he was merely a pawn on a black and white chessboard.
At his best, a few years earlier, Grundy was the Queen. Protected at all costs by the bishops, knights, and pawns around him.
It’s why he penned a seven-year contract worth roughly $7 million. Collingwood’s board – which signed off on the monstrous deal – agreed he justified the investment.
In 2018 and 2019 he was the club’s best player and a two-time All-Australian. But by midway through 2022, Grundy’s value had diminished. He was still being paid the same, but injuries and a loss of form had severely dented his output.
Collingwood’s lack of faith stung the ruckman: you could tell, watching him explain his demotion on Stan’s Show Me The Money documentary.
“You have what is really pure intent which starts when you walk in the door,” Grundy said.
“You want to be on a banner and contribute meaningfully to the club. I wanted to play 300 games for the club. This year has f–ked me.”
Those who know him best say Grundy is an astute man with a worldly perspective. A deep thinker, he was never afraid to stand up to Nathan Buckley when he felt the former coach erred. Teammates saw him as a leader even if he didn’t have the captaincy title.
If he felt burned by the events of last October, then he should feel energised by possibilities now.
The system. The business. The dog-eat-dog landscape. If it worked against him in 2022, you bet it can work for him in 2023.
By now acutely aware of footy’s fickleness, Grundy should feel no shame in requesting a trade away from Melbourne if his spot cannot be assured, which it shouldn’t be if the Demons are honest.
The ruck is our sport’s only truly specialised position, in the same way a wicketkeeper is for cricket and a goalkeeper is for soccer. As much as the Demons have tried to find an edge shoehorning two genuine rucks together, there is no humiliation in conceding the experiment has failed.
Of course, it may still work. Publicly, the Dees are saying all the right things. But 13 matches of ‘Gawndy’ plus an acknowledgement from Melbourne footy boss Alan Richardson that Grundy needs to “develop his forward craft” in the VFL is as close to an admission as a football club is ever likely to give publicly that their grand plan has faltered.
Grundy may not be the All-Australian big man he was four years ago, but he still boasts considerable value on the open market. In the cold light of day, alongside his manager Robbie D’Orazio, he should relish this opportunity to exercise that value.
At 29, it will diminish the longer he waits – just ask Todd Goldstein and Andrew Gaff.
Clubs which could use a proven ruck in the premiership window include Port Adelaide – which suits him given he’s from South Australia – and Geelong.
There is also the possibility the talent-laden Port and ageing Cats can nab him for a bargain.
Consider this: Grundy is owed $1 million per year for the next four years.
But if Collingwood is paying $350,000 annually -as has been reported – and Melbourne chips in $50,000 too, Ken Hinkley or Chris Scott would be looking at a $600,000 ruckman.
This seems about right for Grundy’s abilities – maybe even marginal unders with the next collective bargaining agreement set to deliver players a significant pay rise.
The Demons, currently paying Grundy around $650,000 per year, could also use the cap space to chase a free agent.
They gave up pick 27 for him, but Port’s second rounder, which will end up being about pick 40, should do the trick – as would a future second rounder from Geelong.
It would leave Gawn without an established understudy again, just like when Brayden Preuss came and went in a jiffy.
That’s also okay. Melbourne would be able to use back-end draft picks and state leagues to scour a worthy second in command, just as most other clubs do, safe in the newfound knowledge that paying big money for two rucks is a bold, commendable, but fundamentally flawed and – until 2023 at least – untried premise.
Above all, there is a lot of pride in football.
Grundy was forced to swallow his last October. Now might be the time for Melbourne to follow suit.
If things don’t pan out over the next two months, Grundy joining a third club in as many years could be (don’t say it, don’t say it)… a win-win.