Australia

Aimless Dockers and ageing Eagles look to crucial AFL trade season

The immediate future of both West Coast and Fremantle could depend on the next eight days, and how the clubs attack the AFL trade period.

For the Eagles, it is a chance to bolster a squad they believe is still in the premiership window, while the Dockers need to weigh up how to extract the most value from Carlton for the soon-to-be-departed Adam Cerra.

Of course, there are two other player recruitment opportunities beyond the trade period, with the national draft and rookie draft later in the year, but this is the chance for both clubs to either snare a player or stack their draft arsenal.

Despite the trade period only beginning today, it has already been a busy off-season for both clubs — particularly Fremantle.

To draft or not to draft?

The Dockers appear to be on the brink of breaking into the top eight and playing finals for the first time since 2015.

But to do so, they need to fix their goal kicking which, it could be argued, was the only reason they missed the finals in 2021.

Recruitment in recent years has not delivered the spearhead the club has craved since the retirement of record goalkicker Matthew Pavlich, with Cam McCarthy and Jesse Hogan struggling to have any impact.

Between them, McCarthy and Hogan played 68 games for a return of 79 goals.

In contrast, an injury-hit Matt Taberner — who debuted in 2014 — played 58 games and kicked 100 goals in the same time period.

Nat Fyfe with Lachie Schultz and Matt Taberner. (

AAP: Gary Day

)

But Taberner took time to develop, which would be the cost of going to the draft for a key forward.

The Dockers already have a young forward in Josh Treacy, but he is entering just his second pre-season and has a lot of development in front of him, while Rory Lobb has played a combined forward/ruck role since arriving from Greater Western Sydney in 2019.

Treacy has booted 43 goals in 45 games, but there is speculation about his future at the club.

If he does depart, there will be added imperative for the club to look at a key forward, which it clearly needs.

There are two paths to that outcome: try to recruit an established player or go to the draft later in the year.

Considering the lack of success in recruiting established forwards — and the relatively high return on investment from those selected in the draft — perhaps it is time to turn to youth for that position.

Cerra trade an opportunity

Despite the trade period only officially getting started today, it has already been a busy off-season for Fremantle.

It started in a flurry with Cerra’s decision to return to Victoria for family reasons, just days after the 2021 season ended, and culminated in a short-lived hurricane of speculation about a potential return of Lachie Neale to the Dockers.

Adam Cerra of the Fremantle Dockers handballs the football after evading a tackle by Hawthorn's Tom Mitchell
The Dockers will be hoping to secure a first-round pick for Cerra, who played 76 games in four seasons after being selected with pick 5 in 2017.

Cerra has since, as anticipated, nominated Carlton as his preferred destination.

It appears likely that Fremantle will demand at least pick six, which the Blues hold, in exchange for Cerra’s services, though that will slip to eighth after father-son selections are taken into consideration.

While his departure will leave a hole in midfield, it is more easily remedied than the lack of a consistent key forward.

Caleb Serong will improve and David Mundy is still rolling along, while Nat Fyfe and Andrew Brayshaw are stars of the competition.

Three players with their arms around each other look at a fourth player.
David Mundy is consistently among Freo’s best players.(

AAP: Gary Day

)

The issue with the Dockers is that while Brayshaw is locked in until 2025, Fyfe and Serong are out of contract in two seasons, while Mundy cannot go on forever.

There is no suggestion Fyfe will leave Fremantle, but Serong — who was the AFL’s rising star in 2020 and the Coaches Association’s best young player joint-winner in 2021 — will attract interest from the east coast. 

If Fremantle believes he will remain in WA long-term, it means the club can focus on recruiting forwards, knowing the midfield is set for years to come.

The Dockers currently hold picks eight and 27, and will likely add pick six for Cerra, before father-son and free-agency compensation picks are included.

Eagles cling to premiership window

West Coast missed the finals this year for the first time since 2014, after losing the final four games — and seven of the last nine — to finish a game and 15 percentage points outside the top eight.

A West Coast Eagles player, is congratulated by teammates and coach following a win over the Fremantle Dockers
Josh Kennedy is expected to re-sign with the Eagles on a one-year deal (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)

The Eagles endured an injury-affected year, with a plethora of stars spending plenty of time on the sidelines.

This undoubtedly marred their performances, but the poor end to the year will not be ignored.

Indeed, chief executive Trevor Nisbett wrote to supporters saying performances had been “nothing short of disappointing”.

The club firmly believes it is still in the premiership window, but there will need to be some shrewd recruiting to bring that belief to reality.

It will add some much-needed pace with the anticipated arrival of Sam Petrevski-Seton from Carlton, with that deal unlikely to cost the club much in the way of draft picks.

AFL player running the ball with a defender chasing him
Sam Petrevski-Seton has requested a trade to West Coast, after making just 11 appearances for Carlton this season.(

AAP: Rob Prezioso

)

They will also be at the negotiation table, with Jarrod Brander to leave the club after being informed he does not have a future at Lathlain Park.

It is a delicate situation for the Eagles, who on paper have a strong squad, but also need to recruit for the future, with Josh Kennedy and Shannon Hurn set to play on, albeit much closer to the end of their careers than the start.

A head and shoulders shot of Shannon Hurn at Perth Stadium.
West Coast Eagles captain Shannon Hurn has been at West Coast since 2005.(

AAP: Richard Wainwright

)

The pair are both 34, and by the end of next season the Eagles will have a further eight players aged 30 and above, with four of them considered first-choice midfielders.

If West Coast can get one more good season out of captain Luke Shuey — who managed just seven games through injury — and if Willie Rioli has an immediate impact on his return from a drug suspension, there is no reason the Eagles will not play finals.

But they must have an eye on the future.

The top-end talent they have, which includes high-priced recruit Tim Kelly, are approaching the end of their prime, and the club will eventually need to rebuild or — at the very least — reload.

The Eagles currently hold picks 10, 29, 36, 49 and 65.


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