2023 AFL Trade Period Final Day featuring Esava Ratugolea, Elijah Hollands and Jordon Sweet

Jordon Sweet to Port Adelaide

Each year there’s a ruck merry-go-round where clubs switch options to fill the precious position.

Jordon Sweet has played 11 games for the Dogs in three years including zero this season. But Sweet did star in the VFL in 2023, leading the league for hitouts with average of 43 per game and nabbing 11 JJ Liston votes along the way. 

In that league he competes against some of the best rucks outside AFL senior footy, so it makes sense for Port Adelaide to target him given their ruck situation as discussed above with Ivan Soldo. It’s also worth noting that not all VFL rucks are good, and some of those numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt.

Sweet and Soldo will fight it out for Port’s ruck spot, with Sweet likely having the edge on exposed recent form. Scott Lycett’s career hangs in the balance given his fitness issues and the reported lowballing contract offer to him and Dante Visentini get more time to develop in the SANFL. Sam Hayes also sits out of contract.

The Bulldogs will continue to prefer Tim English and a bit of Rory Lobb in the ruck with Sam Darcy as the next option. The list beyond that is light for rucks and it’s likely they look for some sort of cheap rookie backup between now and March, or possibly June.

The trade dovetails neatly with the Soldo trade, turning the pick acquired there into Sweet. Taken together it still appears ostensibly one-sided, but here that is only because Sweet has no exposed form to project on.

The Bulldogs get pick 50, to go with picks 48 and 52, all to help position for matching the father/son Jordan Croft and then see what’s left of their pick hand afterwards.

Verdict: Notionally unfair trade, but a low valuation of the frontrunner to be a number 1 ruck with solid VFL form.

Esava Ratugolea to Port Adelaide

Esava Ratugolea, generally a bit positionless but lately more defender than ruck or forward, moves to Port Adelaide after threatening a breakout year at Geelong.

Together with the probable acquisition of Brandon Zerk-Thatcher, Ratugolea’s turn as an defender raises the question of how both of them will be integrated at Port Adelaide.

Port had a very intercept and rebound oriented group of defenders led by Aliir Aliir, Trent McKenzie, Ryan Burton, Dan Houston and Dylan Williams, to the extent that the slower and more accountable Tom Jonas was left out of the side towards the back end of 2023.

Ratugolea presents as a potential option to cover a more hybrid lockdown/intercept role to supplement this group. Also worth noting is that Geelong’s defence was the worst it has been for a while last year.

Port often play a high pressing wall of a gameplan,  trying to lock the ball into their forward half, cut off transition before it starts, score with bulk repeat entries. In turn they hope they don’t get pinned into defensive 50 contested situations too often.

Geelong needed these picks badly. They may have about 30 players signed for next year according to Draftguru and before this trade, had pick 8 and not much else for the draft. 25 and 76 become their second and third selections, and even that pick 94 probably stands to be worth more than zero points to someone once it slides up the draft order with bid matches and passes.

It may even be the last live pick of the draft, depending on if and when Port Adelaide, who technically have no draft picks before 100 and a packed list, eventually make a single token live selection.

Verdict: A weird, unfair trade.

Elijah Hollands to Carlton

Coming into his draft year Elijah Hollands was the consensus number 1 in the draft before his ACL injury pushed him down the order. Since then, getting a read on the undoubtedly talented youngster has been tough.

The former pick 7 is a tallish midfielder who never really broke into the deep Gold Coast on-ball unit. Even at reserves level, where he impressed, Hollands was often played in wing and outside roles. 

At his best Hollands has flashed that potential as that sort of gamechanging mid-forward option that every team is desperate for. But, his spacing and positioning is a bit of a question, as is his defensive work. It’s hard to judge whether that due to his shifting role or something deeper.

Gold Coast likely would have had to pay him based on his potential. So they’ve cut their losses here rather than try to fit him into a presumably soon to be stuffed salary cap.

Intriguingly, the fit at Carlton is equally complex, with the Blues having just shed Dow who faced a similar dilemma. Hollands is probably more of a mid-forward hybrid, and more versatile than Dow, so the question is whether he can find a niche between more forward-oriented players like Jack Martin and Jesse Motlop and more midfield-oriented ones like Sam Walsh and Adam Cerra.

Carlton are taking a gamble that a new location can unlock that potential, but it’s going to be tough to fit him in at first glance.

The trade looks somewhat balanced albeit slightly Carlton weighted, but only because Hollands doesn’t project that highly. If Hollands hits any of his potential, this is a steal.

That’s still an “if” worth noting, though. 

The picks are both relatively small shuffles in the draft order including next year. Even if Carlton slide down the ladder or Gold Coast jump into finals it doesn’t really matter since it’s still only the third and fourth rounds. Neither Gold Coast this year, nor Carlton next year, really advance towards their bid matching points goals.

Verdict: Fair trade.

Ivan Soldo to Port

Twenty-eight year old Canberran Ivan Soldo has only ever really seen senior game time as a replacement for Toby Nankervis during injury, or occasionally as part of a tandem setup. He falls very much into the category of serviceable without any particular strengths to recommend him.

With Richmond retooling after a premiership era, they would appear to prefer to roll with Ben Miller and Samson Ryan (13 and 14 games respectively) as their secondary options behind Nankervis. Both are a little more versatile than Soldo. They’ve also got two mammoth ex-basketballers on their category B rookie list.

While not really a ruck, Jacob Koschitzke did also pair with Reeves for Hawthorn when Lloyd Meek was unavailable, so that option also exists for the Tigers.

At Port, Soldo’s arrival should add some basic reliability to an often chaotic ruck mix that Port clearly want to address with the possible “retirement” of Scott Lycett looming.

In recent times the spotty availability of Lycett and Charlie Dixon has meant the Power have tried Sam Hayes, Dante Visentini and the now delisted Brynn Teakle at points, none of whom really grabbed the role with both hands. They’ve also toyed with Jeremy Finlayson as the dummy ruck in a funky ruckless play, something that can work as novelty and which notably bamboozled a couple of sides, but probably isn’t sustainable.

Thus, Soldo, and possibly Sweet and Ratugolea, look set to add to the Power’s ruck divsion, and maybe give Port the space to develop one or more of those young prospects further. The eye test suggests that Sweet has a little more promise than Soldo, but Port will likely test both in preseason.

The trade brings a significant premium to the Tigers with Fremantle’s future second by itself representing a plausible price alone, in a vacuum. The swap here suggests Port simply cannot persevere with the “Lycett and bit parts” ruck setup and that the Tigers, with a contracted player, knew it and applied every ounce of leverage they had.

Verdict: Significantly unfair trade. Richmond get away with one here.

Jack Ginnivan to Hawthorn

Few footy players have been written about as much as Jack Ginnivan compared to what he’s been able to produce on the field. There’s plenty of time for that type of chat, but we’ll look more about the on-field here.

Hawthorn have turned Tyler Brockman into Jack Ginnivan and probably improved their side for next year.

According to PAPLEY both players (the same age) project as having roughly the same future potential. Hawthorn remain in a well-progressing rebuild and their forward line has been especially in flux as Wingard and Breust near the end of their careers and a rotation of tall prospects get their chance to claim a spot. For them this acquisition is straight forward.

But that hides a bit of Ginnivan’s potential there. His 2022 season was very good, even if some of the underlying measures were less hot on him as the raw goal count indicated. There was always a chance that he would slide a bit in 2023 – just that the overcorrection was a bit more sharp than most expected. There’s a fair chance that (off-field stuff aside) he’s become slightly underrated.

Collingwood have already brought in Lachie Schultz who presents some potential fit dilemmas. The Pies have *seemingly* cleared up some of their forward line picture by letting go of Jack Ginnivan. Together with Taylor Adams’ departure, the immediate best 22 selection situation becomes clearer for the Pies, but real questions about roles remain to be answered. In Schultz they have a pressure forward who excels playing in deep isolated target situations, as opposed to losing some of the creativity in traffic and higher up the ground that Ginnivan brings.

The trade values Ginnivan, with the picks alone, as a late second round selection. That’s a bit under his projected worth as a good player who missed some senior footy but who will produce value for likely the better part of a decade, but it’s not unreasonable unders. Like some of the other cheaper deals in this trade period there’s the real chance that Ginnivan outproduces his projection quite significantly – but there are some questions present.

Essentially Collingwood come out with an extra usable pick next year and gain good ground in 2024’s draft, assuming similar ladder positions. The Hawks second round pick should fall well ahead of Collingwood’s, and the Hawthorn third rounder may not be a long way behind the Pies’ second. A big Pies slide or a Hawks bolt up the ladder could change this, of course.

Verdict: Fair trade.

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