Here are the leading names and situations to keep tabs on, as we move into the AFL’s silly season, Trade Period.
The 2023 AFL Home and Away season has run its course, and soon enough it will be ‘Silly Season’, with the AFL Player Movement Period set to bring plenty of big-name trades, free agency moves, and of course, surprises.
Here are six names and situations to monitor this off-season, and how some of them could impact and unlock numerous other trade period, draft and free agency scenarios.
AFL Trade Period: Key storylines
Brodie Grundy (Melbourne)
Grundy’s looming trade will undoubtedly be the most talked-about player movement story this off-season. Set to move to his third club in as many seasons, the two-time All-Australian and Collingwood Best & Fairest Winner joined Melbourne behind star teammate Max Gawn in the ruck pecking order. The positional issue has reared its head in recent weeks, with Grundy dropped to the VFL as Melbourne juggled with the team selection of its AFL side.
Grundy’s contract is already currently spread between Collingwood and Melbourne, with Port Adelaide believed to be the frontrunner, and Sydney also interested in his services. Tom Hickey’s retirement means the Swans are in the market for a Ruckman, while Grundy hails from South Australia, meaning a move to the Power could suit should he wish to return home.
Jade Gresham (St Kilda)
The Saints midfielder-forward is a free agent and has been heavily linked to a move to Carlton at season’s end, with Essendon also recently expressing interest. Reportedly coming off a valuable contract at St Kilda, Gresham faces an interesting wait given the state of Carlton’s salary cap, which could reportedly force out players such as Jack Silvagni and Paddy Dow.
Gresham put contract talks with the Saints on hold earlier in the season, with many reports suggesting the club was happy to give him room to explore his options. The logistics of a trade period switch to the Blues could be the interesting element of Gresham’s looming move, with a compensation pick (as he is a restricted free agent) or a trade among the options, particularly given St Kilda’s interest in the fringe Blues midfielder Dow.
Ben McKay (North Melbourne)
A free agent, the Kangaroos defender looks all but set to leave, with Essendon and Port Adelaide his two most likely destinations, and Hawthorn and Sydney also reportedly interested in getting involved in the Trade Period.
McKay’s move from North Melbourne presents an interesting dilemma for the club, which narrowly avoided claiming a third successive wooden spoon, but in the process, relinquished its best chance to secure the likely Pick 1 selection, Victorian talent Harley Reid. The Roos, already holding Pick 2, can expect a high pick as compensation for the key defender, depending on the value of his new contract. The McKay compensation pick, along with Pick 2, could prove as handy trade capital should the Roos wish to deal up to secure the top pick from West Coast.
Dustin Martin (Richmond)
The Tigers Superstar, 32, has been linked to a shock move away from Richmond to finish his career, after former coach Damien Hardwick was signed as the new coach of the Gold Coast Suns. Out of contract at the end of 2024, reports have suggested that ‘Dusty’ is “more open than ever” to a trade period move north. However, logistics could prove difficult; the Suns’ need for a bounty of draft picks to secure their academy prospects.
Martin’s Tigers teammate Dion Prestia has been linked with a similar move back up to South East Queensland to finish his career where it started, with Brisbane also interested in the midfielder. A trade would also need to be facilitated for the midfielder, which could also hamper the Suns’ opportunity to welcome Prestia back to the Gold Coast.
Okay, it’s not a player storyline, but Port Adelaide is again set to be one of the biggest players this offseason. The Power’s recent withdrawal of their interest in Brodie Grundy has opened the door for them to snap up Western Bulldogs ruckman Jordon Sweet, who has requested a trade to Alberton after a dominant season for Footscray in the VFL.
It doesn’t stop there, though, with Essendon defender Brandon Zerk-Thatcher also requesting a trade to the club, as the Power also pursues Geelong tall Esava Ratugolea. The retirement of Tom Jonas means Port Adelaide is in the market for a key defender, and it looks like they’ll have no shortage of options when the player movement period opens up. Despite the Power retaining their status as somewhat of a destination club ahead of the 2023 trade window, it could be interesting to see how they’re able to facilitate moves for the players in whom they are interested, having shuffled a lot of picks in 2022 to accommodate for Willie Rioli and Jason Horne-Francis.
Bailey Smith (Western Bulldogs)
Speculation is building surrounding the off-season’s Trade Period movements of the young Bulldogs star, who has attracted interest from Geelong, and more recently, Hawthorn.
Smith fell in the pecking order of a stacked Dogs midfield in 2023, resulting in a leaner output than previous seasons, with rumours suggesting he’s keen for a fresh start at a club that’s able to offer him more midfield time. Reports say Smith won’t request a trade at his Bulldogs exit meeting, but there’s a strong belief he won’t be at the Dogs in 2024.
Notable done deals
Matt Crouch (Adelaide) | Staying
The one-time All-Australian and Crows B&F winner featured just seven times at AFL level in 2023, spending much of the year playing in the SANFL. While entering Unrestricted Free Agency and receiving some interest from clubs in both Victoria and New South Wales, Crouch has decided to stay at the Crows. Can the midfielder that was named All-Australian and Best & Fairest in Adelaide’s 2017 Grand Final side find something close to his best once again in 2024?