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13 key players entering AFL free agency we need to keep an eye on


afl free agency 2024, top players

It’s the talk of the town throughout every footy season – which stars of the competition are looking for a new contract?

And with the ability for experienced stars to move freely through free agency, the importance of new deals and contract talks is only made more and more important.

There are plenty of huge names that are set to hit free agency at season’s end, so let’s take a look at who they are and what their footballing futures might look like.

The 13 top AFL Free Agents of 2024

Some very high profile stars are coming off contract after the 2024 season. Some, of course, may re-sign before the year is out — something we’ll need to stay on top of.

Here are 13 key names entering the AFL’s free agency for 2024.

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Tim English (Western Bulldogs)

English is one of the premier names on the market among 2024’s free agency pool. The star Dog broke through for his first All-Australian jacket last year, and has been strongly linked to a move home to Western Australia for years now, with West Coast his leading suitor.

While the loudest murmurs surrounding English’s contract suggest he’s set to stay at the Bulldogs on a long-term, high-paying deal, the story’s certainly not over, with teammates Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Bailey Smith also out of contract at the end of the year, and already attracting plenty of rival interest.

tim english, western bulldogs, afl free agents 2024
Bulldogs star ruckman Tim English

Will Hayward (Sydney Swans)

A fan favourite at the Swans, Hayward has become one of the club’s most reliable players as he enters his eighth season in the AFL. Hailing from South Australia, the 186cm forward has attracted previous off-season interest from the Crows and Power, and will continue to do so now as a restricted free agent.

The interest in Hayward in 2024 won’t stop there, expected to be league-wide as the Swans weigh up a number of other contract situations with the likes of Errol Gulden, James Rowbottom and Logan McDonald. With those big names sure to take plenty of the spotlight for the Swans’ list managers, could Hayward’s contract come down to how much the Swans are willing to pay him?

Isaac Cumming (GWS Giants)

Cumming has compiled a handy resumé in his past three seasons at the Giants, having played just 10 AFL games in his first four seasons on the GWS playing list. He’ll have to wait before he gets a crack at it in 2024, however, battling a quad injury set to keep him sidelined for at least the first six weeks of the season.

With his quad injury likely clouding any chance of contract clarity in the first half of the season, it could be in the hands of how the Giants perform in his absence, with Cumming one in a large handful of talented half-back prospects on the Giants’ list. While there aren’t any reported suitors for him just yet, it’s sure to be a matter of time before clubs come asking.

Ben Ainsworth (Gold Coast)

Ainsworth could certainly attract some interest from around the league, with the former Pick 4 boasting plenty of versatility to his game. Ainsworth has found a home in the Suns’ lineup rotating between the forward line and the wing, and has become a reliable goalkicking option in recent seasons.

With other clubs having displayed interest in Ainsworth previously, they’ll likely come knocking again this season, though Ainsworth is one of the more prominent names on the Suns’ list of uncontracted players, so will likely be towards the top of his club’s re-signing priorities.

Hugh McCluggage (Brisbane Lions)

Alongside English, McCluggage is another huge name in this year’s free agency pool, and in similar fashion, looks set to stay. With the Lions finishing as runners-up in 2023, and McCluggage a consistent top finisher in his club’s Best and Fairest polls, he’s certainly one of the Lions’ most important players.

While there’s been no formal movement on his contract as yet, McCluggage has verbally expressed his intention to stay at the Lions, hinting that he’s keen to stay long-term. Though the go-home factor of being a Victorian and his positional distinction as an elite winger will be of ongoing interest for rival clubs, it looks as though McCluggage could be the next Lion ‘for life’.

Dustin Martin (Richmond Tigers)

dustin martin, afl free agents 2024

With his blockbuster contract at the Tigers coming to an end in 2024, rumour and discussion surrounding Martin’s future has only grown over the past two years. Plenty of chatter during the 2023 Trade Period suggested that Martin could finish his career by following his triple-premiership coach Damien Hardwick to the Gold Coast, and those rumours certainly won’t go away until he puts pen to paper somewhere.

The other option, although seemingly less likely, would be for Martin to hang up the boots on an incredibly decorated career, but it looks likely that if he doesn’t finish his career as a one-club player, he’ll join ‘Dimma’ at the Suns – as forecast by a cheeky fan during Opening Round.

Dion Prestia (Richmond Tigers)

The triple-premiership Tigers veteran is in a similar boat to his teammate, entering his 14th season in the league. Prestia’s name was another that was thrown around for a move to the Suns – the club at which he started his AFL career.

The one thing that could put a chance of a Gold Coast homecoming to bed for Prestia are his injury woes, which have hampered his football at various stages throughout his career, so some believe he’ll either sign on at Richmond, or hang up the boots.

Cam Zurhaar (North Melbourne)

Zurhaar’s contract situation will be one to watch later on in the season, with the aggressive forward choosing to delay talks of re-signing until later in the season. That’s a positive sign for North Melbourne fans, however, with Zurhaar keen to focus on playing consistent football in 2024.

With a list of exciting young teammates alongside him and legendary coach Alastair Clarkson at the club’s helm, there’s plenty of reason for Zurhaar to stay at the Roos, but he’ll certainly attract some significant interest from rival clubs as the season goes on.

Harry Perryman (GWS Giants)

Perryman has proven to be a required player at the Giants, but will likely be of interest to multiple clubs as he hits free agency at the end of the year.

While there’s been no movement on re-signing him as yet, he’s attracted plenty of interstate interest in the past, and similar to his teammate in Isaac Cumming, could be on the way out as a member of the Giants’ overflow of half-back depth.

Jack Henry (Geelong Cats)

Henry will be one of the Cats’ top re-signing priorities, leading a list of 13 free agents at the club. Henry’s age and status as a flexible key defender will mean his club sees him as a strong list need, but the same factor will certainly be an attractive one to other clubs.

Among the Cats’ other free agents are Patrick Dangerfield, Cam Guthrie and Mitch Duncan, who are all nearing the end of their careers, so Henry will arguably be priority one for the Cats’ list management team when it comes to re-signings.

Jarrod Berry (Brisbane Lions)

Berry proved his importance to the Lions as he played every possible game for the club in 2023, and looms as a lucrative restricted free agent as his previous four-year contract runs out at the end of 2024.

With star teammate Hugh McCluggage also out-of-contract and certainly a higher priority for Brisbane to re-sign – and a number of key players hitting free agency in 2025 – could Berry be the one the Lions let go?

Andrew McGrath (Essendon Bombers)

McGrath has form in the contract realm when it comes to delaying his deals, and as another high-profile 2024 free agent, there’s every chance he does the same this year.

The former Pick 1 is certainly a valued player at the Dons, so the club will be keen to re-sign him, but the club’s footballing success in 2024 could certainly be another factor that will have an influence on the future of the 2017 Rising Star winner.

Brandan Parfitt (Geelong Cats)

Parfitt was reportedly exploring his options in last year’s player movement period, as many players do in preparation for free agency. He looms as yet another player of interest in the 2024 free agency pool, battling injury and selection issues across his time at the cats.

While he’s hitting the prime age of his career, Parfitt is in an awkward age bracket at the Cats, with veterans nearing the end of their careers as the club assembles a new brigade of youngsters. The 2024 season will be key for Parfitt as he determines where his AFL future lies – can he stamp his name as a non-negotiable selection on the team sheet?

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