A complete look at the 2018 AFL Trade and Free Agency period

The 2018 AFL Trade and Free Agency period is (mostly) done and dusted, and hopefully you’ve already read our article for ABC Grandstand on how everything broadly washed out. If not, check it out now, and send it to your closest friends/enemies/neutrals so they can get angry at it too!

The ABC Grandstand gives the general flavour of the way the trade period played out, and the biggest “winners and losers” so far; as much as you can have that take within 12 hours of the period wrapping up.

This piece looks at each club in more depth, and every move made to date. Remember, delisted free agents can still move clubs, and trades of draft picks can still occur to the end of the draft.

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. Elsewhere, you can read much more about the method and theory behind PAV and also about PAPLEY, the projection method used to derive expected future PAVs. This method expresses both picks and players in terms of expected future value allowing them to be compared on this common basis.

The big picture

Not every club approaches the trade period in the same way. Some clubs attack the period looking for players to win in the short term, others look longer term for picks in this draft, or players with longer term potential. A smaller subset seems happy to stockpile for next year’s draft, seemingly content with where they sit for 2019.

Here’s a similar look to our ABC piece, which again we have to plug.

That small subset of clubs gaining 2019 pick value include the four northern clubs and Port Adelaide – perhaps a sign that those clubs have Academy and Father-Son prospects in the pipeline. Future picks occasionally come at a slight discount, so it is also a smart move to build value this way.

No club lost more player value out in the 2018 period than GWS, with fellow expansion club Gold Coast the only other side within sight of them. Fremantle has likely gained the most future player value, with Essendon, Geelong, North and Collingwood also gaining significantly.

As a result of the Wingard trade, the Hawks lost a lot of 2018 draft value, with the Dons and Carlton also losing ground in this draft. In contrast to the player value ranks above, GWS and Gold Coast look to have gained the most draft value this year.

Another way to break down the overall winners and losers is to see who has likely built value for the future, and who has prioritised winning now.

You might note that this chart is a little different from the ABC one above. We made a slight data entry error, substituting a pick swap between Fremantle and North to being between GWS and North instead. The amended data sees the Dockers’ future gains to be not quite as big as Sydney’s, but still a very impressive double-win.

A few observations:

  • Quite a bit more value, 241 more PAV to be “precise”, came in than went out of clubs, thanks to the creation of free agency compensation selections at picks 3, 20 27, and 57. Here’s how the pick insertions impacted on draft position in the first four rounds, with holders of multiple higher picks the most impacted:
  • All four of the compensation picks project to produce more value than the remaining careers of the players themselves, though it won’t take much for Alex Fasolo to outdo pick 57’s projected PAV.
  • Only three clubs meaningfully gained ground for 2019 as well as improving their projected long term value position – Fremantle, North Melbourne, and Geelong. Even Geelong’s gains are a bit notional given the fringe players involved on both sides, but the Fremantle and North double-wins look the clear standouts from trade period.
  • Future pick trading has become well and truly normalised, with only Melbourne and Geelong neither trading away nor gaining any future picks.

Now that the general trends are over, let’s take a club by club look at the period.

Club by Club


The Crows acquired two fringe forward options, turning next year’s fourth round pick indirectly into Tyson Stengle and receiving a mature age concession player, namely Shane McAdam, in the swap with Carlton for Mitch McGovern. Injury issues have hampered McGovern’s projection, as well as question marks over his contribution to the potent Crows attack. Initially, HPN gave McAdam no projected value, but on further research we have derived 36 PAV as the average career of mature age draftees. This puts McAdam’s prospects seemingly about on par with Stengle’s. In practice, we may see both of these players competing for a single spot in Adelaide’s forward line, reducing their net output.


Brisbane swapped in or out virtually every pick they started with, including two separate pick swaps with the Suns (both favourable to the Lions), and were very active players throughout.

Trading Lachie Neale in for Dayne Beams out looks like a fairly equal swap for them in 2019, while the acquisition of Marcus Adams was a weird overpay. Lincoln McCarthy only cost a swap of picks in the 50s for a player with few expectations, while Sam Mayes has declined markedly from his first years’ output; and the associated pick 5 for 6 upgrade was such a marginal deal it was widely regarded as part of Port’s Wingard swap.

In pick terms, the Lions have moved out of this draft and more strongly into the 2019 draft. Despite trading away their own future first rounder (valued here at another pick 4) they now have Collingwood’s first, Gold Coast’s second, and Freo’s third round selections.


Overall, the Blues degraded their future value projections by swapping away four shots at value, each worth between pick 19 and pick 38, in order to bring in Mitch McGovern and Will Setterfield. The cost was picks 26 and 28, next year’s second round pick (notionally pick 19 but potentially lower) as well as mature age concession player Shane McAdam. As mentioned above, those mature age selections should roughly be worth pick 38 – with the trade of Nathan Kreuger for pick 42 being right in line with that valuation.

There is some hope that both McGovern and Setterfield will outperform their projections (McGovern if he stays fit, Setterfield if he’s as good as he looked in junior and reserves footy), but it’s still a hefty price to pay. They will both have to far exceed the marks set for them here for Carlton to make up the likely value lost in those trades.

The bigger priority for Carlton was clearly that green “2019 value” column, where including free agent Fasolo and former Swan Nic Newman means that they have got four probable best-22 players. Carlton have a bigger existing stock of future value than most clubs, after years at the top of the draft, so probably aren’t so concerned about the loss of several good hits at more.


Jordan Roughead is an insurance policy in the ruck, and the optimal senior value for Collingwood to get from him is likely to be zero.

Dayne Beams was of course the headline acquisition here, and a classic “win now” move. By adding to an already highly rated side, Beams helps put Collingwood on top of the pile for projected 2019 PAV, keeping right in the premiership frame, but at a longer term cost.

Back in 2014 the Pies won the first Beams swap by plenty, netting De Goey, Greenwood (via on-trade) and Crisp. The Lions should win the return engagement, because two first round picks is likely to yield more than even the best 29 year old.


Essendon had to pay over what would be the fair market rate for Dylan Shiel, especially once GWS had declared after their other moves that they had the financial capacity to keep him. To get Shiel, the Dons gave up pick 9, and a future 1st (valued at pick 8).

Either of those two picks individually is about even with Shiel’s projected value, and even a substantial Bombers ladder rise leaves GWS with a pretty good pick next year, on top of 2018’s top 10 selection. For Essendon, the immediate contribution of Shiel as they attempt to hit their peak is the value they desired, even at the premium given up.

Elsewhere, Travis Colyer was released for about what he was worth.


The signature move for Freo this trade period was actually not the high profile player swaps, but the lopsided swap of picks with a Port Adelaide desperate to get up the draft order. That move filled out their draft order, turning a solitary pick 6 into several others with much greater likely value; picks which were then key to subsequent moves.

The Dockers gave up Lachie Neale for a good price, including their own pick 6 returning to them for a moment, with the Neale returns all on-traded. Rory Lobb and Jesse Hogan were essentially paid for with the proceeds of the Neale trade, and are an enormous upgrade to Freo’s forward line (Hogan’s navicular and other injury issues pending).

Travis Colyer was nearly free and Reece Conca (as free agent) was completely free. Finally, pick 31 was a three for one pick swap with North that pretty strongly favoured the Kangaroos on paper, but probably involved picks that the Dockers weren’t likely to use.

All in all, the net view of Fremantle is they got a forward line and improved their draft hand, at the cost of Lachie Neale and some later picks next year.


Geelong were quiet achievers in the trade period, swapping out some fringe players for some different fringe players, and acquiring Luke Dahlhaus through free agency. Dahlhaus constitutes most of their projected net onfield gains in 2019.

They didn’t really alter their weak draft hand, but a look at different options like Nathan Kreuger and Gary Rohan might be more useful than perservering with Jackson Thurlow and Lincoln McCarthy as far as fringe prospects go. George Horlin-Smith may be useful to his new club, he has struggled to get on the field much in recent years.

Gold Coast

There’s no question that the experienced player losses to the Suns were substantial. But the Suns seemingly have made a pragmatic decision to commence a second “expansion” period; one involving acquiring as many draft picks as possible. While it may be hard to reconcile losing both co-captains in the same trade period, these moves probably give them a better chance at success – which should be the goal of any football club.

Receiving pick 3 as compensation for losing Tom Lynch shapes as a great long term deal for the Suns, even if he doubles or triples our pessimistic projection by staying on the field more and playing several years into his 30s.

Kade Kolodjashnij and Steven May both departed for pick 6, which is good value to the Suns. Kolodjashnij struggled to stay on the park in recent years while letting May go was probably a calculated gamble on his future plans. May would have been 28 years old entering the 2020 season, and it is unlikely (but not impossible) that his loss would have been worth the top band of free agency compensation at the end of next year.

The Suns actually have some sneaky defensive depth and the backline was their most solid area in 2018, so these losses may not hurt them too badly with the likes of Thompson, Leslie, Joyce, Hombsch, Burgess and Collins to hold down the fort.

The loss of Jack Scrimshaw was very clearly the discarding of an unwanted player, while Aaron Hall may be in the same category. Both may flourish in new environment, but that was unlikely to occur at the Suns.

Gold Coast’s player acquisitions came cheap. Anthony Miles and Corey Ellis may have been a side deal to the free agency loss of Lynch, but looked like fair value on our projections; albeit with very good reason to think Miles will do a lot better than projected. George Horlin-Smith and Jack Hombsch came for token picks and both could be handy foot soldiers.

Note also that we haven’t included the three mature age players Gold Coast also picked up. These were concessions given before the start of the trade period so doesn’t really add to the list of trade moves. Mature age draftees have averaged about 36 PAV across their careers, and any of Josh Corbett, Chris Burgess and Sam Collins could come in and be best 22 contributors next year. In particular, watch for Corbett to partner with Wright up forward.

Stuart Dew was appointed as senior coach just before the start of trade period last year, and inaugural list manager Scott Clayton departed shortly after the period ended. This was the new staff’s first chance to make their mark. Overall they’ve turned their mini exodus into five top 30 draft picks and a bunch of mature players ready to contribute immediately. There’s potentially seven new senior players coming in, turning between the ages of 23 and 27 next year, mostly being fairly unfashionable but solid midfield and backline types. It may point to a new look for the Suns, some new competition and protection for the Suns’ array of young recent draftee talent, and some support for the likes of Miller, Lyons and Swallow. Given their lengthy injury list last year, the Suns would expect to improve on field next year, despite their high end player losses.

Greater Western Sydney

GWS went backwards onfield for 2019 more than any other club, losing as much as the Suns in player terms, but without the lower level compensatory ins ready to contribute immediately. The only value they gain next year is any contributed by their early picks in their first season. Historically speaking those new draftee players will give more than zero, but be less than useful.

The GWS’ CEO told Dave Matthews spoke after the period and stated that that the club was forced to seek to trade out players to manage their cap and the forward-year planning of their list after having list rules changed on them. They’ve managed this task as well as could be expected, expanding their draft value this year, and even moreso next year. Draft pick bounty trade periods aren’t sexy, but picks are the lifeblood of talent acquisition and better picks means better future value.

Dylan Shiel and Will Setterfield both netted an outsized draft pick gain, picks that are fairly likely to yield more total future value than those players. Rory Lobb was sent away in roughly a fair deal, and Tom Scully was probably a salary cap dump of an injured player, and looked fair to us based on a projection of his future output. The bigger point with Scully may be his expendability – the role should be particularly easy to replace from amongst the Giants’ young running options. The same could apply for the hard running Shiel.

All this suggests GWS chose the players to have “explore their options” reasonably well, because their draft gains are substantial. They have five top 25 picks this year, and they’ve got Essendon’s first rounder and Carlton’s second rounder next year. Importantly, one assumes they’re in a better cap position to keep the players they have left, given they said they could keep Shiel after shedding the others and they forced Essendon to pay plenty for him.

To address the immediate depth issues presented by the loss of the mature agers, the Giants may rely on cheap delisted veterans to plug gaps in the short term – a route they have gone down to some success in the past.


Chad Wingard might well be an All-Australian next year, but the final accounting a decade from now is likely to show Ryan Burton, pick 15 and pick 35 giving Port a fair bit more value than Wingard (plus next year’s pick 45-ish). This is very much Hawthorn in “win now” mode.

Other moves were far lower stakes. Tom Scully was probably a fair punt, reflecting his financial cost and his injury issues. The Hawks were also almost paid to take Jack Scrimshaw. The poster child for all depth players, Taylor Duryea, was a near delisting, traded due to free agency compensation considerations for the Bulldogs.

Overall though, the sacrifice of Burton and two good picks for Wingard is what defines this trade period for Hawthorn. If the gambles pay off (like similar gambles in previous years) with a premiership, it will have been worth it.


The Dees look like having gone backwards onfield slightly in 2019 while upgrading their draft position, but there’s enough moving pieces and a big enough structural impact from these changes that the Dees could easily see improvement rather than suffer for the changes.

Jesse Hogan’s value is unquestionable even with his serious injury concerns, while Dom Tyson was a solid cog in a deep midfield. Both of these areas are points of strength for the Demons, and more importantly, areas where there is depth in the ranks. Both major ins, Steven May and Kade Kolodjashnij, probably help bolster a weaker defence. Dean Kent was a fringe player shed for little value, whose best work was when Melbourne were much weaker.

While they project to lose a bit of 2019 value from the trade period, if Hogan’s injury issues continue, Preuss gets gametime, or Kolodjashnij plays evey week, they’ll come out clearly ahead.

A late 2 for 1 swap with St Kilda moved them up the order while suggesting they won’t take more than their picks 23, 28, and maybe 54, as live selections. Right now, Melbourne has at least five list spots available, and rookie list spots. In recent years Melbourne has looked to mature aged recruits (including from their VFL side) to top up their list, a route that they may go down again in 2018.

North Melbourne

North are the club who look to have gained the most talent for the 2019 season. Ryan Clarke‘s youth and output to date suggest a major long term loss of value on our projections, but there’s no question that either of Jared Polec or Jasper Pittard individually is an upgrade on him for 2019, let alone both of them. Dom Tyson will add to North’s midfield, while Aaron Hall may very well find it easier to contribute in a much more low key role.

The Roos lost draft position for these moves, but a focus on matching bids for Tarryn Thomas and Bailey Scott seems to be their focus. They did this via a 3 for 1 pick swap that looked like a plausibly good move in its own terms even without considering matching bids for these two players.

Port Adelaide

Port lost ground for 2019 as they dealt several key players out of the club, but the extent of the damage is yet to be seen. Their draft moves focused on concentrating existing pick value into a few higher end selections.

This is different to their focus on a spread of pick value like their 2016 (4 picks in the top 30) and 2017 drafts (five between 40 and 60, nothing before it). Each year, Port seems to target a draft position and aggressively trade for it. This year the target was the top end, where they now hold picks 5, 10 and 15. They also gained three future picks around the 60s range, suggesting an academy bid next year.

The headline moves were the swap of Chad Wingard and a later pick for Ryan Burton and two good picks. This was a huge gain in expected value for the long term, even if it hurts them next year (a real question, considering Burton’s ability in his career to date). The future value gained there made up for how much they gave up swapping several picks for pick 6 with Freo.

Elsewhere, also degrading their 2019 position was the swap of Polec and Pittard. Jack Hombsch might have contributed a bit too, but was considered expendable depth and was traded as such.

Scott Lycett came via free agency and Sam Mayes was the extra piece in a pick upgrade trade, but nobody is going to argue these players make up for the other immediate onfield losses at face value.


The big move for Richmond was getting Tom Lynch as a free agent, but the Tigers also dealt a bunch of fringe players during trade period.

They look on these projections as though they’ve gone backwards for 2019, but a better year for Lynch (his best year was just over 20 PAV rather than the 11 projected here) would entirely erase that, given the low expectations of Miles, Ellis, Stengle, Lloyd and Conca for them. It’s not clear any of those five would play without injuries to better players. Their biggest gain in draft terms was acquiring Gold Coast’s third round pick for next year, but overall they had minimal involvement aside from shedding guys.

St Kilda

The main question for St Kilda’s trade period is which Dan Hannebery they’re going to get. The eventual trade involved an exchange that suggests neither party expects 2013-2016 All-Australian Hannebery to come back. At the same time, it seems clear that they both think he should go better than he did in his below replacement level 2018, a year where he was Sydney’s 30th ranked player.

In net terms, to get Hannebery the Saints gave up their future second rounder (potentially pick 21) and Tom Hickey in the deal while getting back one slightly later pick. They then split that pick into two so they could delist Maverick Weller. A middle outcome where Hannebery plays for a few years at a decent but not dominant level would make the trade look roughly even.

Dean Kent came basically for free and might be a shot to get back to contributing, like he did when Melbourne were bad or average.


Sydney had, in a low key way, the biggest trade period in terms of acquiring future value, despite whiffing on their publicly named initial targets in Darcy Moore, Aaron vandenBerg and Tom Langdon.

They gained value this in several moves. First they made a lopsided pick swap brokering the Mitch McGovern deal, and they also got back more than Dan Hannebery’s projected future value, especially in gaining St Kilda’s 21ish future second rounder. The biggest gain, though, was turning Gary Rohan into Ryan Clarke. Clarke has played 40 games in his 3 years in the system, which historically projects him to play a lot more footy – the equivalent of the career expectations of pick 12 or so. Young players are notoriously hard to project out, but the indications are good for Clarke based on the data.

The loss of Nic Newman and the gain of Jackson Thurlow were much more marginal moves, though the Carlton fourth rounder that came for Newman isn’t quite nothing – it should fall in the 50s next year.

Overall, Sydney gained ground in both this year’s and next year’s drafts, with the 2018 draft pick gains clearly intended to match a high bid for Nick Blakey while leaving them one or two (but potentially three) likely selections around pick 38.

West Coast

West Coast shuffled their talls this trade period. First they shed Scott Lycett for the pick 20 free agency compensation. This was actually a band 2 (end of first round) compensation, but indistinguishable from band 1 (directly following their first round pick) due to the Eagles being premiers.

Replacing Lycett is Tom Hickey in a trade that favoured West Coast in future value expectations (evidently St Kilda needed only a lower level pick for the Hannebery trade). Hickey was clearly depth at St Kilda next year and will probably be backup out west if Naitanui were fit. At this stage he will be in a competition with Fraser McInnes to play most of the year in the the Eagles’ two ruck setup while Naitanui is out, and then he may compete with Vardy for secondary duties after Naitanui returns.

Western Bulldogs

Replacing Marcus Adams and Luke Dahlhaus with Taylor Duryea and Sam Lloyd means the Dogs look to have gone backwards onfield in 2019. The caveat there is this projection is based on Lloyd and Duryea’s records as fringe depth players at their old clubs, meaning we could see them get closer to their best at the weaker Dogs. They’re projected to give them a combined 11 PAV, but as a guide, their best years were both each just over 11 PAV individually.

Jordan Roughhead also exits the Dogs’ weird extended ruck rotation, vacating the field for Boyd, Trengove and English to collectively contribute each week.

The main game here was the Dogs improving their draft position, which they did by bringing in two more pretty useful picks in 27 and 32, which came as the Dahlhaus compensation and via a really generous Adams trade. They made the biggest net gain in draft value for 2018 outside of the Giants and Suns, who were both getting back value for several best 22 players departing.

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