2022 AFL Trade Period – Day 7 featuring Jack Gunston, Jack Bowes and not-Jack Grundy

HPN will attack this AFL Trade Period in one post a day. Check back here as the day progresses to get our take on the day’s “action”.

Jack Gunston traded to Brisbane

Premiership winning biggish forward Jack Gunston was an unrestricted free agent coming into the free agency period. But, given the compensation rules in play, he has been traded to Brisbane rather than signed via that route. That’s because Brisbane wanted to keep the free agency compensation pick 35 they received for losing Daniel McStay.

Gunston slots into a pretty decent forward mix for Brisbane and his smaller stature and greater mobility will give them a bit of a different look as a third tall relative to what McStay provided. He’s also been very good for a very long time – making the All Australian team in 2018.

Gunston has experience working behind dual key forwards, having done so at the peak of Hawthorn with Franklin and Roughhead, so may find the job supporting Joe Daniher and Eric Hipwood a refreshing change from recent seasons with Hawthorn. There’s even a real chance that Gunston may operate at times as a fourth tallest target – if the Lions decide to pair Fort and McInerney on the field at the same time.

Holy smokestacks Batman.

The former Hawk who was once a Crow may provide a couple of quite good years to Brisbane as they try to peak with a flag. His long term prospects are limited given he turns 31 next year and he missed nearly all of 2021 with a bulging disc issue. Veterans in their 30s are often traded for very little, for token trades, and Gunston could have moved for free.

The mechanics of the trade are interesting because implicit on both sides is their free agency situation.

On the surface, a usable pick in the mid third round is more than might be typically expected in a trade for an uncontracted 30 year old with recent injury issues – these sorts of moves are often done nearly for free as a favour to beloved veterans. Just from this Hawthorn premiership era team, while all a little older, the likes of Sam Mitchell, Jordan Lewis, Luke Hodge and Grant Birchall all moved away for little to nothing.

Hawthorn signed Karl Amon and were never going to receive free agency compensation for Gunston given the way the calculations are netted. Any trade is a bonus for them, and pick 48 may not be too far off the lower band compensation they might have hoped for.

Brisbane, however, needed to trade to protect pick 35, and it just so happens that this apparently lopsided trade for a player in his 30s with a recent record of back issues is nicely balanced out by the shadow of pick 35. Seen as a trade of Gunston and 35 for pick 48, Brisbane obviously come out well ahead, netting Gunston for less than nothing, while still allowing Hawthorn to gain something for their stalwart. Both teams win!

Verdict: Unfair trade in favour of Hawthorn until one considers the free agency compensation Brisbane retains as a result. With that considered, both teams win, as usual with free agency.

Brodie Grundy finds a way to avoid rucking against Max Gawn

A year ago the thought of Brodie Grundy leaving the Magpies by the end of 2022 would have surprised, and perhaps caused disbelief, amongst footy fans. Now, for just the price of a mid-second round pick, Grundy has joined Melbourne to form perhaps the strongest ruck duo in AFL history on paper.

Grundy got off to a hot start this year, as Collingwood did well in stoppage situations with him on the park. He suffered from injuries early, just around the time the the Pies went on their hot streak to end all hot streaks. As the year progressed the Pies brass started thinking whether or not they could supplant the output of Grundy with Darcy Cameron and Mason Cox, and use the salary savings to strengthen other weaknesses.

It’s estimated that the Pies are paying somewhere in the ballpark of $300-350,000 for the former All Australian to play for a finals rival. That netted them around $600-700,000 in savings per year over the next five years, depending on the shape of his contract.

Collingwood have targeted several players this offseason, coming away with McStay, Hill and Frampton so far.

But it’s really, really, really important to remember that Grundy has been really good in his career so far. Even this year, according to mPAV (the per game version of PAV), he was in the top 10 players in the league when he got out there. He’s not only a great tap ruck, but he’s also great on the ground.

In fact, one of Luke Jackson’s rosier outcomes as a ruck would be something around Grundy – if everything broke right. HPN wrote of his impact two years ago for the ABC. Nothing’s really changed since then, except for some injuries this year.

There’s a slight issue of the fit with Gawn, but on two talents so clear you’d back them to work it out quickly. There’s a fair case that Melbourne could deploy Grundy as a supersized mid similar to how Geelong used Blicavs in the second half of the year. That’s scary to think about. But maybe it’s a more traditional split, with one taking the forward half and roaming with the other covering a kick behind play in their shared 20-40% of gametime.

The trade of 27 straight up for Grundy looks reasonable against Grundy’s value given his injury issues this year, but if he stays fit for a few years Grundy should outperform this mark. There’s a lot of upside here for Melbourne. If Grundy stays fit, and Melbourne’s staff can work out their shared role, watch out.

Verdict: Fair trade even with the low end Grundy projection.

It’s time to talk about the Suns’ Jack Bowes cap dump

Most trade analysis at HPN starts with a look at whether a particular player can fit into a new team or was fitting into his old one, but that’s probably a bit beside the point here.

For what it’s worth, let’s have a quick look at the future for Bowes compared to what he faced at the Suns. Given their plethora of young midfield talent, anchored by Swallow, Miller and potentially at times Weller, there was no real room in the midfield group for the once-dominant Bowes. In recent times he’d been converted to play out of defence as a hybrid shutdown/rebounding option – a bit of a waste of his talent.

But the Cats just won a flag! They’re midfield goes alright, albeit with a semi-unconventional setup with Blicavs, Atkins and at times O’Connor running through there. There’s no reason to think he can’t be an AFL standard regular senior player but with Bruhn also coming to the club and the likes of Parfitt and O’Connor still somewhat on the outer, it may take a while to get senior exposure at Geelong.

For Bowes, the additions of years three and four to his deal (alledgedly) might be key. That’s when Dangerfield, Blicavs and Guthrie might either leave the club or the midfield rotation, opening up spots underneath.

But really, the main focus here is the trade and the salary cap. Readers won’t need us to tell them this token trade was extremely lopsided.

Several things are evident from Gold Coast trading Jack Bowes and pick 7 for a third round future pick.

Most obviously, Gold Coast considered it imperative to get the salary off the books and the list space opened up. Bowes is reportedly on a back-ended contract signed a few years ago and the Suns have decided to force him out to avoid the cap hit. This trade has been in the works for a while, and may have been the trigger for the AFL to flag increased tolerance of very lopsided trades in the interest of cap relief.

Second, we can assume the contract in question doesn’t match what clubs see as his value, because the trade tells us no club was very interested in taking on Bowes’ contracted salary into their cap.

The Suns therefore had to offer a significant sweetener for a club to take it on. They must have known this for a few weeks given that back in mid September the AFL publicly flagged that it was okay with very lopsided deals meant to move cap space.

Third, Gold Coast’s pricing of picks is almost totally different to that of other clubs right now because to draft someone a club needs a list spot. They have 39 contracted players next year, a hangover of extra list space concessions from 2019 which saw them carry 53 players, 51 players and 49 players over the last three seasons.

They’re currently committed to 44 players next year including 37 senior players after trading out Bowes. There are two players whose futures are unknown – Oleg Markov (a Suns regular when fit) and Charlie Constable (who managed just two games this year). Assuming they hold onto Markov at least, and without further movement, they can take just one live draft pick at most. With pick 5 coming for Izak Rankine, as it stands, pick 7 couldn’t have been used.

The Suns also currently have a slew of picks for next year, some of which will likely go towards academy player matching. This made future picks less desirable as trade inducements. Pick 7 was therefore the thing to offer up.

Finally, it’s further confirmation after the pick swaps a few days ago that the pick market this year is real weird. There’s very few buyers of later picks, clubs mostly want to either move out of the draft to next year, or trade right up the order, and with precious few buyers of later picks, the going rate for pick swaps is very high. The Suns have probably picked picked the worst year possible to try to find someone who would take a mid range pick for some cap relief rather than insist on a high one.

Thus, needing to move Bowes, needing to pay enough for it to happen, and clubs not wanting picks after the first round, all conspired to make this the best they could do and had no alternative for. Geelong, as a result, get pick 7 just for finding some cap space.

Verdict: Unfair trade, obviously.

Frampton a Humble Pie

Billy Frampton, the Crows and formerly Port Adelaide big man, heads to Collingwood as Grundy departs.

Frampton was a ruck first and then used as a key defender by Adelaide, and it’s plausible the Pies will look at Frampton in either setting given the recent departure of Brodie Grundy, but also of defensive depth in Jordan Roughead and Mark Keane. In either case this is a cheap deal for them to pad the thin stocks out. Frampton has shown flashes at times but has failed to contribute regularly at AFL level.

Collingwood’s future third, likely to fall in the 50s range, is a speculative sort of a pick which can produce value but quite often won’t. Frampton, who has played 24 senior games in 5 seasons since debuting at age 21, also has no record of real best 22 footy and is a very speculative chance himself.

HPN’s projections have pick as still more valuable than Frampton’s exposed record suggests for his future, but if he does play a bit of senior footy, it’s a win.

Verdict: Notionally unfair trade, but low stakes.

Jacob bounces to Richmond

Just a year ago Jacob Hopper had been named to his first All Australian squad, and the Giants had pushed their way into the second week of finals. This year couldn’t have been more different for Hopper and the Giants. The young man from Leeton struggled to get on the park this year, and the Giants struggled more on it – finishing as close to the bottom of the standings as any time since their emergence as a threat.

The Giants have long struggled to keep all their talent within the TPP cap, and this year’s victims were primarily midfielders. Already gone are Tim Taranto and Tanner Bruhn, with small forward Bobby Hill also leaving the club. Of the three midfielders, Hopper is the most inside, a beast who loves the contest.

That’s also probably the area that the Giants are richest in. Tom Green had a breakout first half of the year, before Stephen Coniglio reminded everyone why he was so highly rated. The Giants can also throw Perryman, Ash, Ward and Toby Greene through the middle. If the Giants had depth to lose anywhere, it was on the inside.

With Cotchin and Martin over thirty, and Prestia not far away, injecting some younger (yet proven) talent into the midfield is a no-brainer for Richmond. Alongside Taranto, the former Giant potentially keeps Richmond’s premiership window open for another couple of years at least.

The trade sees GWS send some late picks from GWS’ extended hand to Richmond alongside Hopper for two much better picks. Picks 53 and 63 sat as the 5th and 8th pick GWS held this year after being active traders, so a Richmond future first and a better pick this year sets them up to fill their likely five list spots.

Hopper’s injury affected year perhaps undersells his projected value a bit as a soon-to-be 26 year old with half a decade of footy ahead of him. This trade would broadly be fair even at a projection double what PAPLEY rates Hopper at. It’s likely the reality falls somewhere in the middle, with this trade being much closer to 1:1 in value terms (if Hopper avoids injury and the Tigers stay good).

Verdict: Fair trade.

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 the HPN Trade Calculator to evaluate potential trades.

Elsewhere, read much more about the method and theory behind PAVExpressing 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.

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