Sinclair and Jetta – any ruckman in a desert

Lewis Jetta value = 1181 points

Callum Sinclair value = 536 points

Verdict: unfair trade: West Coast recieve 2.2 points of value for every point they let go.

The valuation of water is a difficult thing because it is context dependent. To a dying, parched man in the desert, the value of water is effectively infinite. To someone drowning, or two kilometres below sea level in a submarine, the value is infinitely small or hugely negative. Somewhere in between lies the value of rain for farming, the value of water to drink, the value of water for washing your car, watering a garden, running a hydroelectric turbine, etc. Value is contextual.

So to it often is with ruckmen. Rucks are a specialist structural position, with a skillset usually not easily interchangeable with others. Rucks take time to develop, there are few of them on lists compared to other player types. Clubs need a minimal number of them, but beyond that, there’s little use for them but leaving them to toil in the reserves. Perfectly capable ruckmen languish without being played, other barely capable rucks play every week.

Value is contextual, and clubs often seem to pay wildly over the odds (Port Adelaide for Ryder) or accept big unders (Mumford for Sydney, GWS for Giles) depending on their own stocks.

Sydney are a club desperate for ruckmen, with Mike Pyke halfway out the door and on one leg, Tom Derickx still somehow seriously in the conversation as a number one ruck option at a serious AFL club, and the only bright spot being Kurt Tippett having turned into the secret best ruck-forward in the AFL in 2015. They also have Sam Naismith and Toby Nankervis who are both nowhere near ready to play (with Nankervis rocking 3 worst-on-ground efforts in a 5-game 2015).

On the face of it, in accepting a trade of Jetta in a straight swap, Sydney have paid substantially over the money. Both players turned 26 this year. Jetta has been a regular contributor for years in a top side, as a wing, half forward, or more recently a quarterbacking half back, a role he often struggled with despite his excellent kicking skills. Playing almost 21 games a year for the last three, he basically does not miss games and projects to play about another 115 over the remainder of his career. He is very low risk.

Sinclair, meanwhile, has been a pinch-hitting 29-game player in Scott Lycett’s absence, and has been recruited for a role he basically hasn’t yet played. His only experience as lead ruckman was a 13-hitout lesson from Aaron Sandilands. Sinclair played 20 games in 2015 and 9 before that, coming off the rookie list as a mature recruit in 2013. We value him on that full three-year period, where he struggled to break into the team ahead. There’s no guarantee he’ll work out for Sydney, because he’s being recruited to play a demanding lead ruckman role he’s never actually played before. With his limited exposed record, Sinclair is a risk, and is being valued as such under our output projection system.

It’s doubtful Sydney or West Coast feel this way (and to be honest, as a Swans fan, neither do I). This is because the value of a ruck is quite context dependent.

If a club such as Sydney intends to compete strongly for a premiership but doesn’t have any readymade ruck stocks, even a replacement-level mature warm body, third in line at another club, looks like a glass of water in the desert. To West Coast, with Nic Naitanui and a hopefully-fit Scott Lycett on the list, Sinclair is third in line and looks like an optional extra, able to be traded for a proven performer who will slot straight in and enhance their best 22-side. Both sides will likely be happy despite the apparent gulf in projected value.

Water water, all around…

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