The AFL Trade Period is done and dusted – and it was… something.
After the wall-to-wall drama and huge number of moves of the 2022 silly season, 2023 marked a return to something like normality. Few if any stars changed hands, pick 1 remains safely in the hands of wooden spooners West Coast (for now, at least), and a big chunk of the most significant deals got done early in the piece.
34 players still changed hands, only down two from last season: but where Jason Horne-Francis, Tom Mitchell, Tim Taranto and Izak Rankine gave the available crop some genuine elite talent, this year’s group were mostly seeking more playing opportunities at their new homes, with only the occasional exception.
As a result, ranking how each side performed from 1st to 18th was a good deal tougher than it was twelve months ago. Only one team truly cleaned up, and probably only one other had a properly tough time of it – and given the standard of the players involved, there weren’t too many genuinely one-sided trades.
Did I get it right… or have I grossly underrated your team’s off-season so far?
Here’s your official Trade Period wrap, where I rank every team’s performance from 1 to 18.
IN: Taylor Adams (Collingwood), Brodie Grundy (Melbourne), Joel Hamling (Fremantle), James Jordon (Melbourne)
OUT: Dylan Stephens (North Melbourne)
2023 Draft Picks: 12, 45, 55, 91
By most people’s estimate, the Swans gained the most out of this year’s Trade Period – to add two clear best-22 players who address weaknesses in their line-up in Adams and Grundy is a huge boon that could rocket them back into premiership calculations heading into 2024.
It’s not quite as strong as Richmond’s haul of Jacob Hopper and Tim Taranto last year, but to get both a high-quality ruckman and a strong inside midfielder to fill the gap left by Callum Mills’ injury – and Adams will probably turn out to have an even longer-lasting impact once Mills returns – all while keeping their first-round picks this year and last year and even adding an extra in 2024 via trading with North Melbourne for Stephens is an impressive bit of business.
As an added bonus, Hamling offers some badly needed key defensive depth for no cost, while Jordon is good enough to nail down the opposite wing to Gulden and join Toby Bedford as a fringe Demon who breaks out at a new home.
When you add to that that the Swans were super efficient, getting in and out by the first Wednesday of the Trade Period, they’re the clear number one seed. A job well done from Kinnear Beatson and Charlie Gardiner.
IN: Mabior Chol (Gold Coast), Massimo D’Ambrosio (Essendon), Jack Ginnivan (Collingwood), Jack Gunston (Brisbane)
OUT: Tyler Brockman (West Coast), Jacob Koschitzke (Richmond), Brandon Ryan (Brisbane)
2023 Draft Picks: 4, 44, 47, 49, 61, 62, 63, 83
They left it late – but Hawthorn got every deal they wanted done, done.
Sure, five of their six trades took place on deadline day amid some quite protracted negotiations, especially over Chol and Gunston, but after losing a swathe of first-choice players 12 months ago the Hawks have added more best-22 options than any other team.
Chol, they’ll be hoping, will be a perfect athletic foil for Mitch Lewis in attack, with Gunston as the rangy third tall and Luke Breust and Ginnivan crumbing at their heels. At a stroke, a forward line that looked sketchy going into 2024 with Koschitzke gone and Chad Wingard to miss most of it through injury now looks quite imposing.
The big watch will be on Ginnivan: at his best, the premiership Pie is a definite upgrade on the departed Brockman, with his goal nous, smarts and creativity all ideal attributes if he can stay on the straight and narrow off-field. For the price they paid, he could well prove the steal of the draft.
OUT: Chris Burgess (Adelaide), Mabior Chol (Hawthorn), Elijah Hollands (Carlton)
2023 Draft Picks: 24, 26, 27, 32, 36, 38, 66, 71, 74
Can’t imagine this placing will be controversial at all!
The Suns had one goal heading into the Trade Period – accrue as many picks (and by extension, draft points) to match bids on Academy prospects Jed Walter, Ethan Read, Jake Rogers and Will Graham.
At the time of writing, they have 3877 draft points which with to do this – with Walter expected to be bid on in the top five, Reid in the top 10 and both Rogers and Graham in the top 20, they’ve almost certainly got enough to land all four without going into debt given the discount of up to 20 per cent on the points required to match bids on Academy or father-son prospects.
That’s the main objective ticked off for the Suns, so to also land two more first-round picks for next year – one tied to the Western Bulldogs, the other an end-of-round pick from North Melbourne’s AFL assistance package – is a significant boost too.
Their deal with the Dogs, giving up pick 4 for a slew of handy picks across both this year and next, might be the best bit of trading the Suns have ever pulled off.
With none of the three players they offloaded in Burgess, Chol and Hollands in the best 22 – though Hollands wasn’t really ever given a fair shake at the Suns – they’ve certainly not had their list gutted like in previous trade periods, either.
In a draft light on star players changing hands, in the years to come we might well look back on Gold Coast as the big winners out of 2023’s off-season: at the very least, it feels like a watershed moment in their history.
IN: Xavier Duursma (Port Adelaide), Todd Goldstein (North Melbourne), Jade Gresham (St Kilda), Ben McKay (North Melbourne)
OUT: Massimo D’Ambrosio (Hawthorn), Brandon Zerk-Thatcher (Port Adelaide)
2023 Draft Picks: 9, 31, 35, 61, 88
In what we can only assume will be Adrian Dodoro’s final Trade Period as Essendon list manager, he certainly wasn’t idle.
The Bombers have a long-standing habit of bringing in top-line talent from other clubs in the off-season, and while the options on offer in 2023 weren’t as high quality as in some other years, McKay at least fills a crucial void as the defensive monster they’ve been searching for since Michael Hurley’s body began to let him down.
I’m a bit sceptical on the rest, which is why the Bombers are down in fourth rather than pushing for top spot: I’m not convinced Gresham’s zip around contests is exactly something they were lacking from their current midfield, while Brad Scott should be careful about using Goldstein as a tandem ruck with Sam Draper given how ineffectual he has been in that role in his last years at the Kangaroos.
As for Duursma, injuries and the presence of Nic Martin and Sam Durham on the wings spark concerns over both his durability and his role, but three years ago his future was looking just as bright as Zak Butters and Connor Rozee’s, and they didn’t give up anything to Port Adelaide to pick him up that they weren’t going to lose anyway.
All up, a strong farewell from one of Trade Period’s most polarising figures. Thanks for the memories, Dodoro.
IN: Jack Billings (St Kilda), Tom Fullarton (Brisbane), Shane McAdam (Adelaide)
OUT: Brodie Grundy (Sydney), James Harmes (Western Bulldogs), James Jordon (Sydney)
2023 Draft Picks: 6, 11, 42, 93
Having Melbourne this high up the rankings is mostly a reflection of two things: the quality of the players on this year’s trade table, and how much I personally think Jack Billings can deliver.
Sure, he’ll need to find a new role given Lachie Hunter and Ed Langdon’s success on the wings, but at his best he’s a classy ball-user and goalkicking on-baller, and to only give up a future third-rounder and have St Kilda pay a portion of his salary could well go down as one of the steals of the Trade Period.
Fullarton will be given every opportunity to be the forward-ruck the Dees need to both support Jacob van Rooyen in attack and give Max Gawn a chop out, and in Shane McAdam they have another mid-sized marking option in attack, which can only help their scoring.
Neither Harmes nor Jordon were anything more than fringe best 22 options, while getting Grundy’s salary off the books comes as a relief after that experiment failed. The aim of the Trade Period is to make your team stronger, and Melbourne have certainly done that.
IN: Zac Fisher (Carlton), Bigoa Nyuon (Richmond), Dylan Stephens (Sydney)
OUT: Todd Goldstein (Essendon), Ben McKay (Essendon)
2023 Draft Picks: 2, 3, 15, 17, 18, 57, 82
On the one hand, it’ll be sad to see Goldstein finish his career in colours other than blue and white, while I’m more pessimistic about what losing McKay will mean for the Roos in the short term – at times in 2022 he was the only thing stopping them being pumped by triple-figure margins on a weekly basis.
But you can’t say North didn’t make the best out of a bad situation – netting pick 3 as compensation for McKay had them laughing all the way to the bank, and with pick 2, 15, 17 and 18 as well, plus some more first-rounders next year, you can expect to see a serious play for West Coast’s pick 1 all the way up to the November 10 deadline.
Fisher and Stephens should also get every chance to embed themselves in the best 22: Fisher could be the classy, zippy half-back that allows Harry Sheezel to transition into the midfield, while Stephens adds midfield depth, even if that’s one area in which the Roos are reasonably well stocked.
In other years, that haul might barely be enough to crack the top 10, but what can I say: this year’s Trade Period wasn’t one for the ages.
IN: Tom Doedee (Adelaide), Brandon Ryan (Hawthorn)
OUT: Tom Fullarton (Melbourne), Jack Gunston (Hawthorn)
2023 Draft Picks: 30, 39, 51, 54, 67, 97
The Lions don’t exactly want for much, but provided his knee isn’t shot, Doedee looms as the ideal intercepting third tall/mid-sized lockdown defender they desperately needed at times in the grand final.
Bringing him in as a free agent already made the Trade Period a success for the Lions, and with Fullarton and Gunston the only ones to depart, they haven’t lost anyone from an already imposing best 22.
Their keenness in pursuit of Ryan in the late stages of the second week was a fascinating subplot to the Gunston trade drama – the Lions liked what they saw from the mid-season recruit’s three career games to date to offer a future second-rounder for him, and surely they haven’t headhunted him like that just to replace Fullarton as the spearhead of their VFL team.
With Joe Daniher and Eric Hipwood established key options in the senior team, it will be fascinating to see what role Chris Fagan has for Ryan: perhaps as a forward-ruck to chop out Oscar McInerney and bring back the triple-threat forward line that never really worked with Gunston?
IN: Nick Coffield (St Kilda), James Harmes (Melbourne)
OUT: Jordon Sweet (Port Adelaide)
2023 Draft Picks: 5, 48, 50, 52, 53, 56, 69, 72, 75, 90
I’m very mixed on how my team went at the trade table: I’ve had them as low as 12th in early drafts before settling them right in the middle of the power rankings.
On one hand, Harmes and Coffield are solid if unspectacular ins: Coffield has genuine upside as an intercept-marking third tall in a defence that desperately needs cattle, while Harmes can and should be deployed as an extra hard arse around the ball to reduce the need for Tom Liberatore to do all the grunt work on his own.
The pick-swap with Gold Coast copped plenty of flak at the time, and while it could backfire if the Dogs really struggle next year given the loss of their 2024 first-rounder, as it stands they should now both have enough draft points from their seven picks between 48 and 72 to match a mid-teens bid on Jordan Croft, while also securing a top-line talent with their pick 5, most likely at this stage to be classy crumber Nick Watson.
The pessimist in me, though, says the Dogs should have been heavily pursuing Jack Ginnivan and Jack Billings, given both the obvious holes they’d both fill – Billings off a wing, Ginnivan as a crumbing option at Aaron Naughton and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan’s feet – and the small asking price Hawthorn and Melbourne respectively eventually got them for.
The Dogs are better off than they were two weeks ago as a result of the trades they made – but will it be enough to cure the malaise currently infecting Whitten Oval? We shall see.
IN: Esava Ratugolea (Geelong), Ivan Soldo (Richmond), Jordon Sweet (Western Bulldogs), Brandon Zerk-Thatcher (Essendon)
OUT: Xavier Duursma (Essendon)
2023 Draft Picks: 73
If Melbourne were up in the top five thanks to my personal rating of Jack Billings, then Port find themselves down in ninth mostly because I have the opposite take on Esava Ratugolea.
Giving up pick 25 for the former Cat, notwithstanding his obvious athletic gifts, felt like sizeable overs for me, and having watched him regularly run around like a headless chook in Geelong’s defence and leave wide open spaces for opponents to mark for much of the season, I’ll be surprised if his arrival immediately tightens up a Port backline that was consistently their Achilles heel in 2023.
I have, bizarrely, higher hopes for Zerk-Thatcher as a third tall, while the arrival of Ivan Soldo and Jordon Sweet gives Port ruck depth that should allow them to finally move on from Scott Lycett’s creaking body. I’d be surprised if both play, but Soldo impressed enough in his brief stints as Richmond’s number one ruck without Toby Nankervis that first go at nailing the spot down should go to him.
It seemed like the Power had moved beyond Duursma this year, so losing him to Essendon shouldn’t be too great a loss: overall, though, there’s not a lot in their list of ins that suggests they’re about to instantly rise into premiership contention – and the loss of nearly all their picks this year and next year’s first rounder could cripple them in the years to come.
IN: Lachie Schultz (Fremantle)
OUT: Taylor Adams (Sydney), Jack Ginnivan (Hawthorn)
2023 Draft Picks: 19, 33, 80, 98
I’ve seen a lot of people rate Collingwood as one of the big winners of the trade period, but I’m not quite as bullish about the premiers.
People forget, having watched the Pies claim the flag without him, how much Adams provided for much of the season in a difficult mid-forward role, and at 30 he should still have two or three years of good footy at the Swans. Ginnivan was set to be borderline best 22 and caused off-field headaches for the club to bookend the season, but my hot take is that his ceiling is 2007 Steve Johnson, and if I was in charge of the Pies’ list I wouldn’t have been quite so keen to push him out he door.
Lachie Schultz might be, pound for pound, the most talented player to switch clubs in 2023, but while he’s a super talent and an upgrade on Ginnivan, it’s not as if the Pies were lacking for small forward options either. And considering they gave up a future first-rounder for him, Fremantle certainly made the best of a bad situation.
There are a lot of teams in the ‘B’ range from this year’s Trade Period, and while the Pies’ haul looks ripe for a more positive re-evaluation in a few years’ time, I can’t help but feel like losing Ginnivan will be a move they look back on down the track and wish they’d handled things differently.
IN: Elijah Hollands (Gold Coast)
OUT: Paddy Dow (St Kilda), Zac Fisher (North Melbourne)
2023 Draft Picks: 22, 28, 70, 78, 96
Now this is a ranking I would be unsurprised to see age badly.
The Blues’ list is already set for a sustained crack at glory, and losing Dow and Fisher certainly isn’t going to push them off the rails. Fisher emerged as a pretty sound option at half-back late in the season, while Dow’s absence leaves them a touch vulnerable when it comes to midfield depth if they have another bad run like at the back end of 2022, but all in all, it’s far from the end of the world to lose them.
The arrival of Hollands, though, could prove an utter steal in the years to come: a superstar in his draft year even thrown up as a potential pick 1, he never really gelled with Stuart Dew’s way of doing things at the Suns.
He’ll struggle for midfield opportunities at the Blues given their swathes of stars running through there, which is why I’ve chosen to play it safe with this ranking… but if he can be the player he looked like being in the final five weeks of 2022, then at worst he was worth the minimal price paid, and at best he could be a bona fide gun of the future.
IN: Tyler Brockman (Hawthorn), Matt Flynn (GWS)
2023 Draft Picks: 1, 23, 37, 58, 81
This is the first ranking where I’ve felt a little harsh: both Flynn and Brockman should be first-choice options in 2024, Brockman as a nimble small forward and Flynn a ruckman to allow Bailey Williams to spend more time as a foil in attack. Keeping pick 1 – for now at least – also means they didn’t crack under the pressure and let North Melbourne steal their most valuable asset off them for a song.
On the other hand, the circuit-breaker the Eagles probably need to begin their rise up the ladder didn’t come, and more than any other team in recent memory pick 1 looms as a headache if they can’t get pick 2 or 3 plus another first-rounder off the Kangaroos.
Should they keep it, they can either do the logical thing, take the clear standout player in the draft, and hope Harley Reid isn’t Jason Horne-Francis 2.0; or they can take Daniel Curtin, a young gun in his own right who they’ve had eyes on all season, but in so doing give up the rights to the most hyped draftee since at least Sam Walsh.
Either way, it’s a risk: and knowing the Eagles over the last few years, there’s a decent chance that whatever option they go for ends up being the wrong one.
IN: Paddy Dow (Carlton), Liam Henry (Fremantle)
OUT: Jack Billings (St Kilda), Nick Coffield (Western Bulldogs), Jade Gresham (Essendon)
2023 Draft Picks: 13, 21, 40, 92
Here is where we start to see teams who either lost more than they gained, or earned a zero sum.
Top of the group is the Saints, primarily because they safely secured Henry, who should lock in a spot on a wing and thrive with mentor Bradley Hill there to look after him; adding Dow to the midfield ranks and securing a first-rounder as compensation for Gresham also saw the Saints come out in the green.
I actually had them as high as sixth in the rankings before sending them plummeting thanks to a disappointing last day: I’m shocked they accepted a future third-rounder for Billings, while also agreeing to pay part of his wage. Surely the Saints’ salary cap isn’t sufficiently bursting that the two years to run on his contract were going to break the bank, and like my Bulldogs did in offloading Lachie Hunter to the Demons last year for a similar price, this seems to me like nothing more than strengthening a rival for no personal gain.
The risk/reward on Billings made it a no-win for the Saints: if he succeeds at the Dees, they’ll look stupid, and even if he fails, it’s not like they got anything worth getting for him anyway.
OUT: Matt Flynn (West Coast)
2023 Draft Picks: 7, 16, 43, 59, 77, 79, 95
After Flynn walked out as a free agent on Day 1, the Giants weren’t involved in a single deal – though they seem likely to bring in Orazio Fantasia as a rookie during the draft.
To be fair, it’s not like the Giants needed anything that was on the table, and preserving their draft haul which includes a top-10 pick will be more beneficial for them than making a play at the limited quality on offer. Plus Flynn’s departure means little given Kieren Briggs’ rise into the number one ruck role, and with any luck Braydon Preuss will finally get a clean bill of health to be the back-up they need.
It’s enough for a pure, solid C: nothing good, nothing bad but given 13 other teams at least made incremental improvements to their team, 14th is where vanilla winds up.
IN: Jacob Koschitzke (Hawthorn)
OUT: Bigoa Nyon (North Melbourne), Ivan Soldo (Port Adelaide)
2023 Draft Picks: 29, 41, 65, 68, 86
The Tigers were more readily involved than the Giants this Trade Period – just – and probably come out of it with a similarly even result.
Koschitzke probably isn’t the answer in attack, and certainly won’t be a like-for-like swap for Jack Riewoldt, but if Tom Lynch is fit again he’ll be a handy second tall who can pinch-hit in the ruck. Soldo’s loss means a far greater reliance on Toby Nankervis than ever before – worrying given his injury and suspension history – while getting pick 65 for Bigoa Nyuon is as good as they could have hoped for given he could have left as a delisted free agent.
The reason the Tigers sit behind the Giants, however, is because it felt like they really could have benefitted from being more active.
I’m surprised they weren’t heavily interested in Jack Ginnivan, for instance, given their death of quality small forwards and the fact his presence would have allowed Shai Bolton to transition into a pure midfield role. Jack Billings, too, would have been a sound acquisition as a classy winger for a minimal price, and if any team needed Ben McKay more than Essendon, it was the Tigers.
This year’s Trade Period saw speculation begin that Richmond could fall into the bottom four in 2024: I’m not quite as pessimistic, but still feel this year’s off-season has thus far been an opportunity lost for a side already without its first-round draft pick.
OUT: Esava Ratugolea (Port Adelaide)
2023 Draft Picks: 8, 25, 76, 87, 94
Like the Tigers and Giants, the Cats were far from active players this off-season: losing Ratugolea is probably the biggest blow of all given how hard they fought to keep him and his role in the best 22 for much of the year, but my view is he’s eminently coverable and the Cats played better without him anyway.
It’s semantics, but putting the Cats in 16th is as much about the ordinary optics surrounding the Ratugolea deal. I’m all in favour of teams doing everything in their power to wrangle the best possible deal for themselves, and fully respect the boldness of asking for Ollie Lord from Port Adelaide in exchange; but once that was rejected the Cats should have accepted the pick 25 on offer and appreciated that was a pretty sweet deal in the first place.
Instead, the Cats remained unyielding right until the final hours of the Trade Period, their stubbornness eventually netting them… picks 76 and 94.
Andrew Mackie undoubtedly couldn’t care about this, but it was enough to have the Cats described as ‘the new Essendon’ by sections of the media, and certainly frustrated Port. He should be careful to not earn the Cats a reputation as being difficult to deal with, as Adrian Dodoro did with the Bombers; having that happen might see Geelong cease to become the destination club they’ve been for the best part of 20 years.
IN: Chris Burgess (Gold Coast)
OUT: Tom Doedee (Brisbane), Shane McAdam (Melbourne)
2023 Draft Picks: 10, 14, 20, 89
Let’s be clear: just because Adelaide sit in 17th doesn’t mean their Trade Period was a disaster. Indeed, there were three teams from 12 months ago – GWS, Hawthorn and Gold Coast – that did significantly worse.
All the same, the positives- two picks in the top 20 courtesy of a swap with Gold Coast – don’t outweigh the negatives of losing two best-22 players in Doedee and McAdam. The messy way in which the vice-captain, and crucial member of the back six, departed, with the Crows reportedly low-balling him on a new contract, was an undignified way for a great servant to leave, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the grand final dais in September next year as the missing piece of Brisbane’s puzzle.
Burgess’ acquisition might prove handy when Taylor Walker’s glittering career finally wraps up, but there’s a long history of VFL-level guns showing why they were in the VFL to begin with when they get a sustained crack at senior opportunities.
The Crows have more than enough talent on their list to recover, and I’m still backing them to make the eight next season: but the loss of Doedee, especially given their defence was their biggest weakness last year, makes them one of the few teams to clearly lose more than they gained.
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OUT: Joel Hamling (Sydney), Liam Henry (St Kilda), Lachie Schultz (Collingwood)
2023 Draft Picks: 34, 46, 60, 64, 85
Like the Crows, this off-season was far from a disaster for the Dockers: indeed, had they been in a rebuilding phase, getting a future first-rounder for Lachie Schultz would practically be a win for them.
But if Freo want to return to finals next year – and they really should – then this was a massive setback. Both Henry and Schultz were entrenched in the best 22, and replacing them will be difficult in the short term, especially having given up this year’s first-round draft pick to bring in Luke Jackson 12 months ago.
Only Jye Amiss kicked more goals at the Dockers last year than Schultz’s 33, and having ranked 14th for total points in the 2023 home-and-away season they can ill afford to lose such a reliable source of points in attack. As for Henry, after losing Blake Acres in last year’s Trade Period, there’s only so many wingers Freo can lose before something gives.
It wasn’t bad enough for an F, given they made the best of a bad situation by getting a first-round pick back for Schultz: but the Dockers’ hopes of a return to finals in 2024 have been handed a major blow.
Hopefully, the circumstances that saw a player of Schultz’s value so frustrated by his financial return will hopefully result in some introspection to fix up; because right now, no team is losing more best 22 players year on year than Fremantle.