While the AFL player movement period is largely one where more players stay than go anywhere, the least mobile players on the field are probably the most mobile off. As HPN noted earlier in the week, the number of spots for primary rucks are limited, and there are a lot of listed players on the outside looking in.
Two opportunities for senior ruck playing time presented themselves in this offseason. Preuss to GWS filled one spot, but their intrastate rivals had a clear need as well.
At the salary price point they were willing to meet, from those available and interested, Tom Hickey was the lucky contestant whose number was called.
Hickey, moving to his fourth club and fourth state, becomes the fifth ruck on Sydney’s list. If the Swans want one thing from him, it’s selection availability.
Since the departure of Mike Pyke and Kurt Tippett, the Swans’ ruck stocks have not necessarily been short on numbers, usually numbering four or more. However, they have been filled with players who have shown glimpses without being able to get on the park regularly. Those absences have then flowed on to drag talls away from elsewhere, and they probably helped spur the trade request from Aliir.
Aside from the established Sinclair, the other three listed rucks could plausibly become useful if the Swans were lucky. The HPN Salary Prediction Tool is geared to project optimistic upside output levels based on limited gametime, and to see what list managers might see in an under-exposed player. Here, though, it just illustrates Sydney’s frustration. It would be a brave list manager who pins their hopes on Naismith’s knee or any sort of serious contribution from Amartey or McLean right now.
Sydney in 2020 started out hoping for Naismith to be the solution, but after a bright start his ACL went after just two games. This left the Swans scrambling with other tall players also injured, and in the end, Callum Sinclair and the recently traded Aliir did most of the rucking.
Sinclair is at least credible with some usefulness in the follow-up scramble. However, he’s also turning 32 next year and is probably best used moonlighting as a forward part time anyway.
Hickey, 30 next year, is a slightly longer term bet than Sinclair, and maybe helps release Sinclair to plug gaps up forward. However, Hickey does little to provide an enduring ruck solution for Sydney. The search will go on.
The trade reflects need, and surprisingly values Hickey somewhere around pick 19 due to the extra pick valued in the 30s. However, that value is distributed across four later picks and in a format where the academy points equation is more relevant than the pick value for Sydney.
For West Coast, a ruck they weren’t using nets them an extra pick around the late second or third round.
Verdict: Unfair trade, but tolerable for Sydney due to Hickey’s likelihood of playing games and the Swans’ preference for bid matching points this year.
Note: This post is part of a series of posts using a valuation method called Player Approximate Value (PAV) to evaluate trades for fairness and balance. Readers can explore these values with tools such as 5-year player value projection charts and a Salary Prediction tool as well as the HPN Trade Calculator to evaluate potential trades.
Elsewhere, read much more about the method and theory behind PAV. Expressing the value of players and picks in terms of expected future PAV provides a common currency for comparing them in trades and other movements. Players are projected using PAPLEY, a method to derive expected future PAVs.