As part of the buildup to the Grand Final, HPN thought we’d take a look at how the two list builds have occurred by looking at the value of the player acquisition opportunities. Each trade period, HPN uses its Player Approximate Value (PAV) system to evaluate the trade period and try to understand and contextualise the list management decisions that clubs are making. Using the same valuation system to value players and draft picks allows comparison between them.
Roughly speaking, HPN has valued draftees at the expected career PAV of their draft pick, trades at the net value of what was given up, free agents as the compensation pick given, and “freebie” opportunities like the rookie draft at zero.
Overall, the player acquisition opportunities that have gone into the Richmond 22 add up to 953 PAV compared to the 1291 PAV for GWS, or roughly a third more. If we convert these values into 22 picks of equal value, Richmond’s team list represents recruitment chances equivalent to having taken 22 average pick 30s, and GWS having taken pick 19 each time.
The Tigers have therefore either been comparatively lucky with their recruitment chances, or comparatively astute, whichever the reader chooses to believe about the nature of drafting and recruiting (spoiler: it’s a lot more luck than many might like to believe). On the other hand, with Tigers players having come in as early as 2006, they have had six more years in the system, and potentially had a lot more unsuccessful attempts at things than the Giants in their comparatively short existence.
Let’s look at how each list came together.
Richmond player origins
Richmond’s list is the story of a slow and organic buildup over a long time period. They’ve not benefited from the National Draft particularly strongly, and have supplemented themselves both through the opportunistic targeting of premium talent and the use of the cheapest of talent acquisition channels.
Richmond acquired less than half their grand final 22 via the National Draft and did so over a long period of time. The majority have been there since before the Tigers broke their finals drought in 2013.
These were a mixture of early picks like Dustin Martin, Nick Vlastuin and Trent Cotchin and the slightly later, but still solidly valuable, picks of Edwards and Astbury. The injured Alex Rance is part of this long term core too, being taken at pick 18 in 2007. Only three Richmond grand finalists have come since the start of their current “pretty good side” era and only Rioli was a first round pick in this time, with Broad and Bolton coming later in proceedings. Instead, Richmond have bolstered their recent side with players acquired by other means.
The Tigers playing tomorrow have three traded players acquired with transactions of different natures. Dion Prestia was a Big Target who could have realistically gone to any club he chose. He was recruited out of the Suns, traded for what works out to basically pick 6. That’s a decent price to pay, looked like possible overs with Prestia’s injury questions at that stage of his career, and it’s paid dividends for the Tigers.
Toby Nankervis went to Richmond as a bit of ruck arbitrage, a pretty typical example of a trade where two clubs had wildly different needs as far as rucks went. Most rucks are okay, Nankervis is a pretty standard ruck, and most clubs are only willing to spare so much cash and list space for rucks. At the time, the Swans had other rucks and didn’t want to pay Nankervis much while the Tigers wanted him as their number one guy, so he was traded for pick 46 to get himself a promotion. The pick facilitated what could easily have been a preseason draft move.
Josh Caddy was treated like a solid roleplayer rather than a star in the exchange that brought him from Geelong to Richmond – which may be understandable due to his short time at that club. He was swapped for picks that net out to 46 PAV, equivalent about pick 27. He’s already produced about 42 PAV in three seasons, so barring disaster he’ll comfortably eclipse the average expectations of the traded picks in his career. In short, Caddy became the player he looked like becoming at Gold Coast. That said, all the specific picks from the trade look like beating the odds – Geelong got Parfitt and Narkle and Richmond also got Graham from the picks exchanged.
Richmond have mined the cheapest sources of talent effectively to complement the above group of core successful long term draftees. Most obviously, Dylan Grimes and Bachar Houli came via the preseason draft in 2009 and 10, years when Richmond were near the foot of the ladder. Grimes was an undrafted player who got a second chance, but Houli walked from the Bombers for free. This is what the Pre-season Draft was designed to enable – a sort of proto-free agency.
Other freebies have been rookie picks, with Lambert, Castanga, Short and Soldo all coming in the one bumper 2014 rookie draft, and Baker in 2017, all having been overlooked at the main draft. This source of supplemental talent has proven important to rounding out some contenders’ lists (particularly the grand finalist Dockers, Bulldogs and Swans of the last decade). The rookie list’s low salary cap hit and contract insecurity enables recruiters to rapidly take punts on a lot of high risk or unconventional players, and if a few come off at once, as has occurred here, it can elevate a club’s list beyond where the national draft alone might take them.
The grand final debutant, 2019 midseason draftee Marlion Pickett, also came basically for free after going undrafted in many previous drafts. He’s a 27 year old established senior state player with what clubs saw as a risky past, but he is another example of the Tigers benefiting from the cheap and alternative sources of talent away from the national draft.
Then there’s Tom Lynch. Lynch was worth pick 3. According to the rules of the player exchange economy, due to Gold Coast’s ladder position and the size of the contract, pick 3 was the formula-based compensation pick gained by the Suns at the expense of the rest of the league who were shunted down the draft order. Richmond just had to pony up the salary cap space, which is a more flexible commodity.
Free agency, for clubs who can entice the big names, is quite a handy extra free source of talent and Lynch’s transformation of the Tigers’ previously average forwardline stands a good chance of being one of the banner examples for the clubs who can do it.
GWS player origins
The story of GWS’ build to their first grand final is definitely about the entry concessions they were given, but not in the obvious way. At their entry, they accumulated a lot of potential player value via draft picks and other access rights, but were faced with the task of dealing with the inevitable rapid outflow of that talent, as salary cap pressures and trade demands started mounting up.
They had to choose who to pay highly to retain, and who to let go elsewhere, and there’s more recycled Giants at other clubs than ex players from any other team including some very good ones. However, the Giants were more or less able to manage and control the outflow, letting some guys go for very little, but getting good recycled value for plenty of others.
Rather than being foundation and early draftees, the GWS list profile at this stage consists more heavily of the “second wave” of players acquired in the years from about 2013 to 2016, partly via asset recycling, as well as some of the “third wave” of players acquired more or less independently of those entry assets. They had a great hand, but they have played their transition away from entry concessions quite well, as we will see now:
GWS took of their ten players from the open draft pool and another four via academy access, with surprisingly few being directly the result of their entry year picks.
We can divide the players up into two categories – picks GWS used at entry in the 2011 draft, and picks used subsequently by virtue of ladder position. GWS started trade period in 2011 with picks 1,2,3,5,7,9,11,13 and 15, and swapped some other stuff to get a couple more picks.
As it turns out, with Coniglio injured, only the sixth, seventh and eighth players taken in the draft for GWS are playing in this team in Haynes, Tomlinson and Greene. Patton and Coniglio are out injured. Tyson, Hoskin-Elliott, Adams, Sumner and Smith were traded, and Matt Buntine is out of favour (but coincidentally signed for two more years this week).
The blue chip Whitfield came via a pick GWS earned by being terrible in their early years, while Kelly, Corr and the more highly valued Academy players Himmelberg, Hopper and Perryman came during the active “asset recycling” period for GWS between about 2013 and 2016, all being selected using picks that were partly the results of trading out players that GWS had drafted or started with. This preserved some of the initial value, though a lot of the specific swaps looked like lopsided fire-sales by GWS. It also helped spread the GWS age profile.
Then there’s the draft bargains, with De Boer and Finlayson coming at the tail ends of drafts and Taylor and Daniels being recent second round draftees.
Trades and free agents
With Callan Ward injured, headlining the list of players acquired from other clubs is Phil Davis. As part of the concessional rules for GWS and Gold Coast, all out of contract players were free agents for those clubs even before free agency rules were established more generally. Unlike in normal free agency, it didn’t matter how young a player was, and Davis moved just three seasons into his career.
Davis is valued in our chart, with an asterisk since it wasn’t paid by GWS, at the worth of the compensation received. The Crows received the princely sum of a first round compensation for Davis, a pick that would have been worth around pick 11 had the Crows used it straight away. Instead they swapped it straight back as part of gaining access to Luke Brown and Brad Crouch. The Davis compensation pick ended up shuffling to Collingwood and being used at pick 20 (Tim Broomhead) the following year.
The only player in the grand final 22 who was traded in by GWS is Heath Shaw, who has been highly valued by HPN valuation because GWS paid the estimated future career value of Taylor Adams at that point. Adams has if anything exceeded that valuation.
Jeremy Cameron is the key discussion point here. He was pre-listed by GWS as one of 12 underage players born in the first third of the year, taken by the Giants a year early, who would otherwise have gone into the 2011 draft pool. Essentially the Giants, and Suns before them, got early dibs on a third of the players who would have been in their inaugural draft pool.
In theory, these could be considered to be “pre round 1” draft picks and worth more than pick 1 having come before them, but the early access came with a much more difficult talent identification task. One only has to look at how much draft projections change from a year before the draft to the actual draft to see how hit and miss it would be taking picks at 17 years old not 18, with players having limited testing and exposure. Being a reduced one-third sized pool, the choices weren’t as deep as the real draft pool, either.
It turns out the majority of the 24 Gold Coast and GWS players taken this way didn’t pan out despite being taken ahead of everyone who was eventually drafted in 2010 and 2011, respectively:
|GWS (2011 draft cohort)||Games played||Gold Coast (2010 draft cohort)||Games played|
|Adam Treloar||163||Brandon Matera||139|
|Dylan Shiel||157||Maverick Weller||123|
|Jeremy Cameron||153||Trent McKenzie||108|
|Jack Hombsch||116||Matt Shaw||104|
|Nathan Wilson||116||Luke Russell||73|
|Tomas Bugg||96||Tom Nicholls||45|
|Sam Darley||20||Alex Keath||30|
|Simon Tunbridge||10||Taylor Hine||23|
|Tim Golds||6||Jack Hutchins||19|
|Gerald Ugle||3||Josh Toy||13|
|Jarrod Harding||0||Hayden Jolly||6|
|Josh Growden||0||Piers Flanagan||3|
We’ve valued Cameron (a value not paid by GWS of course but instead implicitly by those who missed out in the following draft) at the average career of these players. That’s been done by combining their career PAV to date and the projected futures for those nine players left in the league (with Trent McKenzie and Tom Nicholls being projected at essentially zero).
Each of those underage player selections works out to have had an expectation of about 48 PAV per selection, adding to 577 PAV for each club in total, meaning each club got the equivalent of a dozen pick 27s, or a bit less than four number 1 draft picks. They were a very handy concession, but only when considered en masse. A dozen of them meant the probabilities were that some would pan out. As it happens, one of those 24 shots netted a Coleman medallist while Treloar and Shiel were worth a decent trade down the line. None of the Suns really netted premium returns.
The rest of the freebies to the Giants were more conventional discards. Adam Kennedy was an overage undrafted player, meaning he’d gone unwanted by the 17 other clubs the year before, a player the Giants got to list for free as an entry concession. Mumford was a delisted free agent in coming back from retirement so that cost was zero (he was initially traded from Sydney for pick 39). And Sam Reid, Daniel Lloyd and Zac Williams were rookie draftees and thus essentially free hits at unwanted talent.
Overall, the Tigers have enjoyed a mixture of modest but steady draft success, have bolstered themselves well with rookies, and have also benefited from their lure as a specific “destination club” for players with plenty of choice about where to go, via the Tom Lynch free agency, Bachar Houli preseason draft walk and the Prestia trade.
The Giants have gained far less from other clubs, with their in-house direct draftees making up 63% of their side. Some draftees were initial concessions, many others were with the picks the Giants gained later. Cameron and Davis are the only non-draft foundation recruits to make the team, and like roughly a quarter of their team is rookies and other freebies.
Both clubs needed plenty of luck (or skill) with the cheap talent channels in order to bolster their highly valued core.