Our AFL experts tackle some of the burning question following the 2021 trade and free agency period.
Which team won the trade and free agency period?
Jake Michaels: I really don't think there's a clear standout but I love the acquisition of Jeremy Finlayson for Port Adelaide and it might be enough to have them as the overall winner. The Power have been lacking a second key forward to release the pressure on Charlie Dixon, and now they have it. Mitch Georgiades will continue to develop and by year's end it could be a very dangerous forward line, particularly with Robbie Gray and Connor Rozee at ground level. Good enough to contend? Quite possibly. Moving up from pick 16 to 12 is also a nice bonus.
Matt Walsh: Adelaide got away with a good one in Jordan Dawson, and, for lets face it, unders. He's an elite kick that can play any part of the ground; according to Champion Data, since he's been in the AFL, he's played 50 percent in defence, 29 percent in the midfield and 21 percent as a forward - one of only 12 players in the competition to spend at least 20 percent across all three lines in this time. He fits the age bracket the Crows need (24) and will be a weapon with ball in hand. He also averaged the fourth most AFL Player Rating points of any defender last season. To pick him up for Melbourne's 2022 first-round pick (which could be in the high teens!) is a great result.
Chris Doerre: Adelaide are the biggest winners of the trade period. It's not every day a club secures an elite footballer for a pick that is likely to be a late first round choice, and even less common from a rebuilding team. What makes the result such a positive one is that the Crows didn't need to give up pick 4 or their 2022 first round pick in the exchange.
Who was the biggest 'bargain' pickup?
JM: How can it not be Luke Dunstan? I'm still amazed the Saints let him walk and congratulations to the Demons for picking him up for nothing. Dunstan proved this year, in his limited opportunities, that he can be a more than capable inside midfielder who has the ability to rack up plenty of ball. He'll do well to crack into Melbourne's premiership side but I think he can and I really get the feeling this could end up being up there with Jarryd Lyons and the Suns in terms of horror delistings.
MW: Any free agent is a bargain in terms of draft capital staying in a club's pocket, but Jake Kelly strikes me as a really shrewd pickup for the Bombers. He fills a need in defence, and what he offers is, quietly, a lot. He's a touch underappreciated; according to Champion Data, since 2018, he has been outmarked in just 9 percent of defensive one-on-one's and has lost just 18 percent of defensive one-on-one contests - the second best percentage of the top-50 one-on-one defenders in this time.
CD: Max Lynch may be the biggest bargain of the trade period if his rapid development continues. With Ned Reeves previously Hawthorn's only ruckman under the age of 30, Lynch fixes up the Hawks' age demographics through the ruck and provides them a genuine contender to Reeves for the long term number one ruck post.
How would you improve the trade and free agency period?
JM: I know it will never happen because the AFL wants fans and the media discussing trades for as long as possible, but I would love for the whole period to be much shorter. Imagine the urgency of getting deals done if you had just, say, 48 hours! It would be total bonkers and you wouldn't be able to miss a minute. As it is, a 90 second read at the end of each day is more than enough to get you up to speed. But yeah, not sure the league will go for that one...
MW: This is interesting because there are a number of cool ideas that could really improve the offseason. I'd keep the postseason trade and free agency period short - a week for free agents and two days for trades. I'd then add another trade period of two days in February, and than another again across the bye weeks. The net length is similar, but there's scope for contenders to bolster their lists midseason, and scope for strugglers to get (probably) improved draft capital for a club desperate to push for a flag.
CD: A mid-season window to trade players and picks would give clubs the opportunity to fill needs and allow them to use mid-season draft picks for the best available talent. Similarly, during the National Draft each year, being able to trade players would give clubs an opportunity for greater flexibility and ability to be creative in how they go about improving their lists.
What was the biggest surprise of the trade and free agency period?
JM: I probably shouldn't be surprised anymore but what is going on with Geelong and the obsession with players on the wrong side of 30? Seriously, it's like a nursing home at GMHBA Stadium! The Cats moved on three players in their twenties (Jordan Clark, Darcy Fort and Nathan Kreuger) and only managed to add 30-year-old ruck Jonathon Ceglar. They also don't hold a pick inside the top 20. This side just keeps getting older.
Crows the clear winners from the trade period: Doerre
ESPN's AFL draft expert Chris Doerre lauds Adelaide for being able to secure Sydney's Jordan Dawson in the trade period for not much compensation, despite the leverage the Crows had in negotiations.
MW: Does Hawthorn's email from Jeff Kennett count? He told fans in an email that they may be 'surprised' by some of the decisions made by the club, hinting that stars were on the trade table. It then sparked rumours of interest for Brownlow Medallist Tom Mitchell, Jaeger O'Meara, Chad Wingard and then Luke Breust. While these didn't eventuate, it was certainly ... a league first from Jeffrey - and of course it had to be him!
CD: Luke Dunstan to Melbourne as a free agent is the most surprising of the period. It's a gutsy free agency decision to join the premiers and believe he can earn a best-22 position in what is a loaded midfield. Watch for a big preseason and don't be surprised if Dunstan earns his games given his competitiveness.