What a trade period we witnessed this year and with deadline day as hectic as it's ever been - seeing 16 of the 28 players that have moved clubs throughout the off-season go to a different club in the final day of the trade period, as well as numerous draft picks, both from this and next year,
Like what I did last year on Bulldogs Centre, we've seen teams win this off-season big-time and we have seen teams who have really disappointed and lost out.
Today, I'm bringing back the winners and losers of the trade period, as there are six teams I've identified as the big winners and six teams I've identified as the losers of this year's off-season exchange period.
Winner #1 - Essendon
"It's just a great day for the club." Quoted Adrian Dodoro after they achieved everything that they had set out to do during the trade period.
It's very obvious that the Bombers are recruiting to win it all in the next couple of years. After reaching the finals in 2017 just 12 months after they finished as the wooden spooners with a decimated roster, the Bombers went all-out this off-season by getting Devon Smith from Greater Western Sydney, Adam Saad from Gold Coast and Jake Stringer from Essendon. The down side is that their first draft selection won't be until pick 48, but that doesn't matter when you're a side that is looking to become a genuine finals contender.
Adam Saad's pace is going to be a welcome asset in the Essendon defence, and could possibly free up this year's Rising Star winner Andrew McGrath into the midfield, as Dyson Heppell and Zach Merrett could use some much-needed assistance following the retirements of Jobe Watson and Brent Stanton. Whilst the additions of Smith and Stringer will only enhance what is already an exciting forward line. Smith has shown that he can kick goals as a small forward and watching him work with Orazio Fantasia and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti will be very interesting to see, whilst Stringer, a former All-Australian, will relish a second chance after a very tumultuous couple of months and an rather unpleasant exit out of Whitten Oval.
Loser #1 - North Melbourne
For a side that had money to burn, offering big money deals to GWS' Josh Kelly and Richmond's Dustin Martin, only to have those offers turned down, North Melbourne failed to anything really in this year's trade period. North Melbourne finished 15th in the 2017 AFL season, and would've loved to have secured some more younger talent to go about their rebuild. They were long in the running to secure Geelong's Darcy Lang before he opted to go with Carlton instead, contiuning North's horrible run of trying to recruit players.
They flirted with idea of offloading All-Australian ruckman Todd Goldstein, goal sneak Lindsay Thomas and former captain Andrew Swallow, but nothing ever eventuated out of that, and given that they will have to stick with what they have, with the addition of a young rising star at pick four, it looks like 2018 will be another long one for the North Melbourne faithful.
Winner #2 - Fremantle
Fremantle weren't massive players in the trade period and it looked set in stone that they would acquire both rebounding defender Nathan Wilson from Greater Western Sydney and small forward Brandon Matera from the Gold Coast, both of them look likely to be very handy inclusions, and despite losing fringe players Hayden Crozier and Harley Balic, Fremantle recruited reasonably well without being huge players this off-season. Watching Matera work with fellow smalls Michael Walters and Hayden Ballantyne will be exciting as they could potentially form their own 'Mosquito Fleet'.
Enter Lachie Weller.
In the days leading up to the deadline on Thursday, Weller caused a huge shockwave in the Fremantle camp by requesting a trade to the Gold Coast, where he had grew up playing football. But Weller's move hit a small snag when Fremantle's list manager Brad Lloyd requested the Gold Coast Suns' second overall draft pick in return for the promising on-baller. Everybody laughed, but Lloyd managed to pull off a massive heist as they secured the second overall pick in exchange for Weller and pick 41 in this year's draft. This means that Fremantle will have two picks in the top five in next month's AFL draft - one at pick two and one at pick five.
Loser #2 - Gold Coast Suns
Now I do agree that the Gold Coast Suns lost out in this year's trade period, but it's not all so bad. Yes they got robbed out of their prized top two pick for this year's draft and the look of despair on Scott Clayton's face as he went in to lodge the paperwork told the story, but they still managed to recruit players that want to be at the club. Lachie Weller should be a very good player in years to come, and should get some value with forward Aaron Young, who did kick 37 goals for Port Adelaide and untried Adelaide midfielder Harrison Wigg who averaged 25 disposals at state level this season, but at the moment both still have huge question marks over their head.
But the facts state that they lost arguably the club's greatest player in Gary Ablett to Geelong and what made it worse is that they couldn't get the player they were after when they traded - Steven Motlop went to Port Adelaide and Darcy Lang wanted to stay in Victoria, in addition, they lost a valuable piece of their back line in Adam Saad and face a very uphill battle to keep star forward Tom Lynch at the club beyond next season, but if there is another positive, is that they have two first round picks and two second round picks for next year's apparent 'Superdraft'.
Winner #3 - Port Adelaide
Much like the Bombers, Port Adelaide spent their off-season recruiting to win, bringing in three names who are capable of getting Port Adelaide up from pretender to contender. The Power finished fifth at the conclusion of the home and away season, but the big constant was that they could not beat a fellow finals contender and that showed when they failed to put away the eighth-placed West Coast in a thrilling Elimination Final that went into over time, and the Port recruiters know that they have the list to go much further than just the Elimination Final.
In signing free agents Tom Rockliff and Steven Motlop, they have players who are very capable of doing a lot of damage. Former Brisbane Lion Rockliff is a former All-Australian and has proven already that he is a possession accumulator and given that his ending at the Lions was very shaky, and at 27 years of age, he'll relish a fresh start, working with the likes of Ollie Wines, Travis Boak and Brad Ebert. Motlop, despite his inconsistencies should be prove to be a real handful with his pace, whether that be as a wingman or as a forward, whilst we could finally see the best of Jack Watts, who was once a former number one draft pick, and Port only had to give up pick 31 for someone who has shown at times that he has got the talent to make some noise at AFL level.
Loser #3 - Collingwood
Can anybody explain who in the blue hell is Sam Murray? For a side that finished 13th on the ladder in the 2017 AFL season, I would've thought Collingwood would've looked to try and be more active in the trade period, but they kept themselves vastly quiet this off-season, with acquiring the rookie-listed Murray from the Swans the only deal they made.
Now Collingwood must see something in the hard-running defender after averaging 22 disposals, five marks and three rebound 50s for the Swans' NEAFL side in 2017 and that all sounds well and good. But this is the thing that completely puzzles me and understandably angers quite a few Collingwood supporters. To acquire Murray, the Pies had to give up their second round pick for next year - and given that the 2018 draft class is supposedly stacked on talent, this is an incredibly massive gamble on someone that hasn't even played a game at AFL level, and given that Collingwood's recruiting strategy in recent years hasn't really done much, this looms as another disaster waiting in the wings.
Winner #4 - Western Bulldogs
Overall, it was a successful trade period from the Bulldogs as they needed to recruit very shrewdly after a poor 2017 season and did so accordingly, bringing in three players that can provide something to this side and in addition they added an extra first-round pick to the ninth-overall pick they had to begin with. They signed Free Agent Jackson Trengove from Port Adelaide almost immediately after Free Agency commenced, and a week later secured the services of Fremantle's Hayden Crozier who has a tremendous leap and can play either forward or back.
Now it must be said that they made an absolute Dogs' breakfast in terms of dealing with former All-Australian forward Jake Stringer. The Bulldogs wanted a top-10 pick for Stringer and could've got pick 11 out of it, but turned it away and eventually had to settle for 25 and 30 to send him to Essendon. It sounds a bit hard-done by, but they needed to offload him, they then on-traded pick 30 along with 28 and a 2018 second-round pick to get pick 16 from Carlton and then sprung one of the surprises of the trade period when they acquired former number two draft pick Josh Schache from Brisbane for picks 25 and 40. Schache might be seen as a potential risk given that he hasn't produced much from his two years at Brisbane, but now that he's at his home state of Victoria, it gives him the perfect opportunity to show why many footy experts rated him so highly as a junior.
Loser #4 - St. Kilda
A disappointing trade period from the Saints who probably should've been more active in this trade period after a poor 2017 that saw them finish 11th this season. Holding picks seven and eight in this year's AFL Draft, they had a serious crack at securing Giant Adam Tomlinson as well as enquiring about stars Andrew Gaff and Rory Sloane, but none of these came to fruition. Furthermore they lost their future second round selection for a second-round pick this year which I think is a bit puzzling.
But they did make a move in securing little-known defender in Logan Austin from the Port Adelaide Football Club. A key defender from Canberra, Austin struggled for opportunity at the Power, only playing 13 games in two years, but I'm not entirely sure that he'll be what the Saints need to come back to the Finals, but on the plus side, they did keep picks seven and eight and should be excited for the draft ahead as they should draft some quality talent from these two slots.
Winner #5 - Brisbane Lions
Really like what the Brisbane Lions have done during this off-season. Sure, they might have lost a really good midfielder in Tom Rockliff, but they should continue to invest in their younger midfielders, however convincing Hawthorn champion Luke Hodge to come out of retirement is a big win as well as he should help set the standards for young fellas like Hugh McCluggage, Jarrod Berry and Rhys Mathieson. Also losing former number two pick Josh Schache to the Bulldogs might not be a big deal as the Lions look to have their number one key forward in Eric Hipwood and a number of other talls as well to make something happen.
They will walk into next months draft with three picks in the first round, holding the first overall pick as well as picks 15 and 18. They could've very much had four first-round picks, but were willing to give up pick 12 to obtain the Queensland-born Charlie Cameron from Adelaide. The price does sound a little steep for someone like Cameron, but it's not easy to remember that he's still only 23 years of age and he's just about to enter his prime and given that they do hold three first-round picks, I'm pretty sure that parting ways with pick 12 won't matter.
Loser #5 - Greater Western Sydney
After bowing out of the Preliminary Finals for the second-straight year, I expected Greater Western Sydney to try and make plays for a couple of out-of-contract stars, but either they must be happy with their list or that they couldn't get anything done. Either way, it's a loss for me, as they lost three players of some value. Nathan Wilson's run and carry from half-back will be greatly missed, Devon Smith's knack for the goals will be missed and Matthew Kennedy is a good enough footballer, but because of the stars in their midfield, went searching for greater opportunity.
However, there is some good news out of this, as they do manage a first-round pick after the AFL stripped them of their original first-round pick for the whole Lachie Whitfield/WADA ordeal. Pick 11 should net them a solid player in this year's draft, and extracting pick 28 from Carlton for Kennedy and a 2018 second-round pick from Fremantle for Wilson were small wins, but in the end, GWS still lose quality depth and that's why they lose here.
Winner #6 - Carlton
Let's be realistic here, Carlton were always going to lose Bryce Gibbs after he openly requested a trade to Adelaide last year, and it's because of trading away Gibbs, that Carlton won out well here. I'm not saying Gibbs is a bad player, he's far from it, but he won't be featuring in the Blues' next premiership and getting him for two first round picks is a massive win in my eyes. This means along with Carlton's original first-round selection, pick three overall, the Blues also get pick 10, which was acquired from Adelaide in the deal with Jake Lever going to Melbourne.
Carlton's movements don't stop there, as they trading in for Geelong's Darcy Lang and GWS' Matthew Kennedy should see them get more playing time and at 21 and 20 years of age respectively, both still have lots of room to grow into solid pieces in Carlton's youthful midfield brigade. On top of the two picks in the top 10 for this year, Carlton will walk into next year's 'Superdraft' with two second-round picks, which will unquestionably prove very handy.
Stephen Silvagni - Well done to you
Loser #6 - Adelaide
Now some may not agree with Adelaide being on the losers list, but I'll tell you why I've put them here. Sure they landed Bryce Gibbs as the midfield assistance that Rory Sloane and the Crouch Brothers need, they go up a few spots in the first round this year from pick 16 to pick 12 and they do add on an extra first round draft pick for next year, but they lost some really quality talent on this roster and replaced them with veterans that might only have a few years left at best and the way they handled themselves on one star youngster is extraordinary.
Losing a key defender on the rise in Jake Lever to a fellow finals contender in Melbourne is a massive loss, everybody understands that, but the way Adelaide carried on and treated him like a piece of dirt because he wanted to go home isn't the right way of doing things, but they did well securing two first round picks for him. Losing Charlie Cameron to Brisbane will hurt their forward line structure to some degree, but gaining pick 12 after losing picks 10 and 16 for Gibbs isn't so bad, but it doesn't stop the fact that Adelaide paid overs for someone that turns 29 in March next year. Acquiring Sam Gibson from North for next to nothing looks like it's nothing more than an insurance policy, but it's good to see him get a second chance at another club.