‘Massive concern’ facing Cats after questionable moves

The AFL’s annual two-week trade period has come and gone, and it’s left some clubs with a serious shot of winning a premiership, with the Swans leading the pack after some shrewd dealing.

Sydney got its business done early by luring former Collingwood teammates Brodie Grundy and Taylor Adams to the club for cents on the dollar.

The Magpies meanwhile also did some savvy business by acquiring sought-after forward Lachie Schultz from Fremantle.

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While there were some clear standout performers of the trade period, there was equally clubs whose moves left those watching with more questions than answers, and suddenly the pressure will be on them to prove they made the right decisions at the trade table.

While players cannot be traded anymore after the close of Wednesday’s trade period, teams are still able to shuffle picks in the lead-up to November’s national draft.

With that said, here are the big winners and losers out of this year’s trade period.

WINNERS

Sydney Swans

After a disappointing season, the Swans did not want to sit idle. They have come out of the trade period as maybe its biggest winner.

It is easy to forget that the Swans are 12 months removed from a grand final appearance and now that core has added a couple of proven winners in Brodie Grundy and Taylor Adams.

In Grundy, the Swans have a bona fide All-Australian calibre ruckman who is motivated to prove people wrong after a year to forget with the Demons.

At just 29, Grundy still has a heap of good football left in him. His last full season at Collingwood saw him average 19.1 disposals and 32.4 hitouts per game, and you’d be a brave man to bet against him putting up similar numbers as the solo ruck in Sydney.

Adams also adds some grunt to a midfield unit that, while extremely talented, still remains young aside from Luke Parker.

James Jordon and Joel Hamling are also likely to be astute acquisitions, with the pair coming over as free agents.

Collingwood

It is not often that the reigning premier emerges as one of the big winners out of the trade period, but that’s the case here.

Collingwood built its premiership list by making shrewd moves at the trade table last year, and have doubled down once again.

In Lachie Schultz, they’ve added one of the AFL’s most lethal small forwards, who is likely to fit like a glove alongside newly-minted Norm Smith Medal winner Bobby Hill.

“I love those sorts of players, guys who can turn the game for you when it’s in the balance,” Kangaroos great David King said of the Schultz acquisition.

“They don’t miss a beat, they’re a happy football club and why wouldn’t they go back-to-back?

“There’s a heap of clubs sniffing around the edges just behind them, but right now you’d have to be thrilled with what they’ve done in the off-season.”

The Magpies were hesitant to lose Jack Ginnivan to Hawthorn, but Schultz is an upgrade over the enigmatic 20-year-old forward in every sense of the word and will slot straight into Craig McRae’s starting forward line in 2024.

North Melbourne

On the surface, the Kangaroos’ acquisitions of Zac Fisher, Bigoa Nyuon and Dylan Stephens don’t seem like names that will vault the AFL’s cellar-dwellers up the ladder.

However, it’s the suite of draft picks the Kangaroos have that will excite fans.

The Kangaroos currently hold picks 2, 3, 15, 17 and 18 after the AFL handed the club a handy compensation pick for exiting defender Ben McKay.

While the player trade period is over, the Kangaroos are well-poised as anyone to have a red-hot crack at West Coast’s No.1 pick in a bid to secure Victorian young gun Harley Reid between now and November’s draft.

Having a whole heap of high picks is one thing, but nailing those picks is another. The pressure now falls on the Kangaroos’ recruitment team.

Essendon

Another trade period premiership for the Bombers, but whether it translates to on-field success is an entirely different question.

The Bombers were able to weaponise their cap space expertly during the trade period, adding Todd Goldstein, Ben McKay and Jade Gresham without giving up a single asset.

The jury is out on both McKay and Gresham, with the pair set to earn approximately $1.5 million between them next season, but both have significant upside and their additions address two serious areas of need for the Bombers: a big key defender in McKay and a classy small forward in Gresham.

The biggest win of all could prove to be the addition of Xavier Duursma.

Duursma was one third of Port Adelaide’s vaunted trio of he and All-Australian duo Zak Butters and Connor Rozee and arguably outperformed both as a rookie before suffering a number of injuries.

If his game can pop like Butters and Rozee’s have, Essendon has pulled off a real masterstroke.

LOSERS

Fremantle

There are serious questions over what is going on at Fremantle after both Lachie Schultz and Liam Henry asked to leave.

The way the club was blindsided by Schultz’s request just months after he’d triggered a one-year extension to remain a Docker was a particularly worrying sign.

“I think they’ve got a good glut of high quality players coming through. But I feel like they never really pick a year when they’re actually going to be the team,” King said.

Fremantle appeared to be one of the most exciting young teams after reaching a semi-final under Justin Longmuir in 2022, but took a significant backwards step in 2023.

With the exits of both Schultz and Henry coming without any significant ins, 2024 could be another long year for Dockers fans.

Geelong

There was only one deal the Cats were involved in, that being Esava Ratugolea’s move to Port Adelaide, and you have to wonder whether that was enough.

Yes, the Cats are still 12 months removed from winning a premiership, but they still remain one of the oldest teams in the competition.

“Since 2017, they’ve only got five players remaining on that list that are top 30 selections. There is a void there and real hole, it’s a massive concern for them,” King said.

“But when you’ve won a flag so recently, you’re prepared to wear what comes in the immediate aftermath.

“We’ve seen it with West Coast and Richmond, this is the cycle you have to live.”

Geelong’s negotiation style has also rubbed people the wrong way since Andrew Mackie took over trade duties from long-time recruitment boss Stephen Wells.

The Cats seemingly unnecessarily dragged out the Ratugolea deal until the final day of the trade period, all over a couple of late picks in the draft. 

After being known as a team that just got its business done with no fuss under Wells, the Cats have become tough negotiators under Mackie and there’s no doubt rival clubs will have taken notice.

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