Free agency took its time to gain momentum. However, we are well and truly into the swing of things now. Players are now linked with moves away more than ever, and while the AFL free-agent class of 2017 still have not fully been resolved, however, plenty of the ‘big fish’ have been caught.
Dustin Martin signed on with Richmond this past week; I am not sure if you saw it buried in the paper somewhere; nobody spoke about it. Meanwhile, free-agent Power, Jasper Pittard (I’ll mention now that this is why I am not a fan of naming a team after a verb), signed on to stay at Alberton, and Levi Casboult re-signed with Carlton. Don’t get me wrong; there are still some massive signings that are out of contract. Brisbane champion, Tom Rockliff is unsigned, although he looks to be staying put.
However, it seems that it is never too early to start the rumour-mill, clubs are playing 4-D chess, and teams appear to be recruiting years in advance. It sounds extreme, however, in such a competitive marketplace, there is no other option. As it is doing this season, free-agency will roll around next year, and some big names will be out of contract.
Robbie Gray: Restricted
Robbie Gray is Port Adelaide’s Mr Fix-it. Wherever coach, Ken Hinkley needs a spark, whether it be a centre clearance or a match-winning goal, Gray is their man. The electrifying midfielder will enter restricted free agency, and Victorian clubs will be making phone calls to see if Gray looks to head home. However, Gray has shown no real signs of dissatisfaction at Port Adelaide after they stuck by his early injuries. We all know how this story goes, expect his name to come up in free-agent talks before eventually signing at Port Adelaide.
Luke Dahlhaus: Restricted
A fan-favourite at the kennel, and forgotten about dreadlock wearer, Luke Dahlhaus has developed from cult hero to star of the AFL. The Western Bulldogs have some big name players hitting free agency (which we will discuss later). However, Dahlhaus will the Dogs’ number one priority next season. It looks likely that he will leave Footscray, especially after the bounce back season we all expect from the Western Bulldogs in 2018.
Andrew Gaff: Restricted
Now we’re talking. After a dominant 2015 season, Andrew Gaff has been unable to back up his form in the past two seasons. However, he is still a known gun around the league. A die-hard Melbourne fan as a child, Gaff may see a future away from Perth. Melbourne clubs who are looking for some midfield polish should be making Gaff their number one priority as he is one of the more gettable AFL free-agents on the market. Although, now I have said that, expect Gaff to re-sign with West Coast almost immediately.
Roary Sloane: Restricted
Footy is a fast moving world; it feels only like yesterday we were linking Rory Sloane to St Kilda. Already two years down the track, his three-year extension is set to expire at the end of next season, making him a restricted AFL free-agent. St Kilda is still hunting another prime mover in the middle of the park, and the Saints will have the cash to spend. Club champions, Leigh Montagna and Nick Riewoldt, are both in line for a lap of honour at the Grand Final, going with them will be some cap space. Speaking of the Grand Final, it is a game which Sloan is likely to be playing in. It would take a courageous man to pick Sloan to leave the best team in the competition. However, twelve months is a lifetime in footy.
Tom Lynch: Restricted
Poor Gold Coast. They look set to be dragged through the proverbial shit-show with Ablett this summer, and Tom Lynch will be the restricted AFL free-agent who has his name splashed about in the news. Lynch is a generational talent at full-forward and appears to be wasting his best years at Gold Coast. If Lynch does not want to be entering his third rebuild at a club, there will be a line of Victorian clubs willing to throw some dollars at the forward. As an unashamed Carlton homer, I would love to see Lynch line up for the Blues. Regardless, if it is Carlton or somebody else, Lynch will be getting offers from Victorian clubs. Gold Coast will have to do everything in their power to make him want to stay. A club which is already struggling cannot afford to lose one of their best young assets.
Tom Liberatore Restricted
Thomas Liberatore. What can you say about ‘Libba’ that hasn’t already been stated? All that can be said is the saddest part of the Bulldogs not being in the finals is that there will be no Libba lap of honour through South-East Asia. There was trade talk about the midfielder this season, with Collingwood being the primary name out there. Liberatore found himself in the reserves throughout the season. However, none can argue that Libba at full steam is in the Dogs best half-dozen. With skipper, Bob Murphy is retiring, the Dogs will have some extra wiggle room to fit both Liberatore and Dahlhaus in their cap. However, it may make the going a little harsh for the man listed below.
Mitch Wallis: Restricted
Mitchell Wallis had a knack of getting injured at really inconvenient times in his career. Wallis missed the Bulldogs’ premiership last season, and after an impressive initial return, he ended his year in the reserves. The midfielder was one of the high hopes for Bulldogs’ fans. However, his career has not lived up to the early promise. Wallis would be a gettable player, especially if both Dahlhaus and Liberatore both receive big pay increases.
Nick Smith: Restricted
Maybe it is the fact he doesn’t collect thirty touches a week, maybe it is the fact he doesn’t play in Victoria, or maybe it is the fact he has the most boring name in the AFL Nick Smith has never received much praise from anybody who isn’t a footy tragic. Smith was a key member of the Swans’ elite back line this year and would be a veteran presence at any club that can lure the AFL free-agent.
Former teammate, Jude Bolton has been singing Smith’s praises for years: “He’s deceptively quick, can play on smalls or a bit taller, and always finds a way to shuffle and organise the matchups and defensive structures to then impact the contest. His diligence to stick with a dangerous forward for an entire game is exceptional”.
Cameron Gutherie: Restricted
Cameron Guthrie is a player in a tricky part of his career. Geelong has two of the best five midfielders in the league. They are also seen to be chasing Devon Smith and Gary Ablett. To add to that, other mids like Sam Menegola and Mitch Duncan have had stellar years. With the Cats looking to bolster their already stacked midfield, clubs should see Gutherie as a gettable player if they make him a priority.
Marc Murphy: Unrestricted
After a few down seasons with injury, Marc Murphy was back to his best in 2017 as will enter unrestricted free agency at the end of the 2018 season. If you are an unrestricted AFL free-agent you can sign with another club, and they don’t have the right to match the offer. If Murphy wants to leave the Blues, then this is the time. However, the Blues have been on down for a long time, and if Murphy wanted to leave, then you feel that he would have done so already. However, that is what we said about Brett Deledio, and now he is a Giant.