It has been a few weeks now since the trade period ended, meaning that yours truly has been customarily tardy — but better late than never, as they say. This year’s trade period shaped as an interesting one given the amount of movement amongst established players: GWS were faced with another salary dump fire sale; Gold Coast’s co-captain bookends decided to head south simultaneously; and of course, there was the eleventh hour confirmation of the desire of Dayne Beams to return to Collingwood.
Having missed out on the free agency signature of Tom Lynch to the Tigers, our next target was reportedly Stephen May. Given how shallow our key position stocks were, May was always the logical target. A lot depended however on what currency we could find to secure the trade, so when Darcy Moore and Tom Langdon both elected to re-sign, the likelihood of satisfying the Suns evaporated.
I should say at this point, that I was pleased that both Moore and Langdon opted to stay. Langdon took his game to another level this year and emerged as a leader within a decimated backline throughout September. Moore was hamstrung for most of the year, but if we can get his body right so that he can stay on the park and begin to realise his potential, I’m of the opinion that his potential ceiling is much higher than even that of Steven May.
The crucial point here though, is that we have to improve in our fitness and injury management departments — particularly when it comes to the troublesome hamstrings of both Moore and Elliott. Even heading into the trade period, my overriding feeling was that we could effectively add two quality new players next year by just getting Elliott and Moore on the park — as such, I didn’t feel any pressing need to sell the farm.
Lynch appealed because he was effectively a free hit as a free agent — the only cost being salary cap. That we pursued him for as long as we did suggests that we had a plan in mind to afford him, but that plan may have involved a deeper culling of the list. In lieu of Lynch and if Moore did succumb to the courting from Sydney, Steven May would have become an absolute necessity.
As things stand, we’ve elected to try and bolster our key position depth with the cheap acquisition of Jordan Roughead. I don’t mind this approach, in light of the value we have extracted from Lynden Dunn in recent years. We won’t have Dunn’s services until the mid-point of next season, so having a player who need only be honest and accountable whilst those around him provide the rebounding flair is not such a bad road to take.
We came within a kick of a premiership with a defensive line that stood 193cm at its tallest (Goldsack) and was battling against the likes of Kennedy and Darling. This did cost us of course, particularly as those two players and a resting Vardy began clunking the ball, but the point is that the cohesion of our defensive line, overseen admirably if not inspirationally by Justin Longmuir, prevented us from being outright exposed.
A genuine key defensive star is always welcome and in many instances essential, but perhaps with the way we setup – down back and with assistance further up the field – all we really need is an honest hinge in that key post. We have Langdon and Howe as intercept players who can punch outside of their weight class, whilst Jack Crisp has also improved his aerial game considerably.
Maynard is combative on the deck and one of our best lockdown defenders, but he’s also got enough height to factor in the air when required. Then there is Scharenberg, who has just suffered his third ACL after beginning to emerge as the player we hoped he would become. It’s a difficult road back for him and a cruel story indeed, but a career as a solid third tall is still not beyond the realms of possibility. We also have the likes of Appleby who showed a bit as a dour defender, along with the emerging Nathan Murphy.
My point is, any defensive line is more than the sum of its parts. The game continues to change and we showed enough this season to suggest that we can think outside of the box and make it work. We can’t afford to rest on our laurels or not to try and bolster weaknesses, but I do feel we’ve got enough quality components down back to not only provide an honest defence, but also give impetus to our attack.
We’ve reached the point now where we should discuss Dayne Beams.
Right out of the gate, I’ll say that whilst the adage that you can never have too many players of the quality of Beams holds true, he is in some ways surplus when considering how we would have assessed our needs entering the trade period.
I’m not unhappy to have him back, because even if our midfield was a strength already, the Grand Final showed that we probably needed one more weapon in there. Sidebottom was nullified and Pendlebury didn’t really fire a shot. Taylor Adams was immense and Brayden Sier had a busy first half, but he’s probably another preseason or two away from being a four quarter factor. With Sidebottom getting tagged out of it and being pushed forward at times, having a player like Beams likely would have resulted in a few more clearance wins; or at the very least another proposition for Simpson to contend with.
In terms of cost, a lot depends on how we perform next year. If we manage to go top four and deep into September once more – with Beams being a driving factor in that result – two late teen picks would seem reasonable. If we do manage to snatch a premiership on the back of his return, then the cost is downright cheap.
If he enjoys an injury free run, a reasonable expectation is that Beams has 3-4 years of top flight football left. He’s a genuine ball winner and a goal kicking midfielder — he knows how and when to push forward and hit the scoreboard. One concern from his previous time with us however is that his defensive running isn’t exactly a strength. When we consider that the defensive work of our midfield in getting back and assisting our backline played a big role in mitigating some of our weaknesses throughout the year, some questions come to the fore.
We should also be mindful that midfield chemistry can be a strange and elusive factor. Geelong had Dangerfield, Selwood, Ablett Jnr. and the impressive Tim Kelly this year — but were never really a threat. Our midfield runs deeper and contains more quality overall, but you can only have so many players at the coal face at any given time. Striking the right mix and balance with midfield rotations will be crucial to getting the most bang for buck from Beams and others.
Just on this point, I’m also mindful about the development of the likes of Sier, Stephenson and also De Goey. Sier really emerged in the back half of the year and I’m almost convinced, based on what I’ve seen, that he might just be the most important piece to our future midfield. Stephenson will take a couple of years to add the needed size and strength, but I can see him moving up onto a wing or even being given licence to roam further up the field next year where he can find more of the ball and utilise his pace. De Goey took a massive step this year and whilst he’s got too many weapons up forward to ever contemplate making him solely a midfielder, we’ll still no doubt get great benefit from using him as an impact player out of the centre.
Being able to balance the game time so that we don’t curb the development of these players whilst accommodating Beams will be important.
I should note though, that if there’s one thing we’ve learned to expect it’s that injuries will come. Having such depth in the midfield with the addition of Beams means that we can weather the loss of personnel in the engine room better than most. We should also enjoy having a set of rotations that places top shelf quality in the centre at any given time, combinations taken from all of: Pendlebury, Sidebottom, Beams, Treloar, De Goey, Sier and Adams — all being fed by Grundy, who can double as another midfielder once play unfolds.
Once more though, it is about establishing the required chemistry for any of these combinations to work; and furthermore, for Beams to fully acquaint himself with this new Collingwood team.
One side of the Beams situation that is worth mentioning – whilst admittedly beyond the realms of the pragmatism that should underpin any list management decision – is the human story involved. The manner in which Beams departed did leave a sour taste. His reasons were sound and what has sadly unfolded in his personal life since his departure certainly justified his move, but it was more the manner in which he left that bothered most: not attending the best and fairest and with a circus playing out via social media, in many ways instigated and driven by Leppitsch and Rockliff.
Undoubtedly, there was also a disconnect between Beams and Buckley and at the time, Beams represented yet another case study of the discontentment and instability in the locker room. I can understand many Magpie fans – even at this point – being a little guarded when it comes to celebrating his return.
The last few years have however been a turbulent journey for Beams, one of loss and a difficult, much publicised battle with grief and his own mental health. Whilst we can point to inconsistencies with his declarations at the Brisbane best-and-fairest presentation – where he declared his love of the club and willingness to remain – it is evident that Beams was working through a tumultuous tightrope routine, weighing his many motivations, obligations and unsure of what possibilities were even available to him.
It can also be said that his public comments and sentiments, towards both clubs, are not mutually exclusive. He can deeply appreciate and even harbour a love for Brisbane and its playing group, whilst simultaneously harbouring stronger feelings for his original club — the one in which he just returned.
I fear brevity is escaping me as I attempt to make this point in perhaps the most drawn out way possible, but at the heart of the matter is something of a football story coming full circle.
Beams left us at a low ebb, with many understandably and even rightfully citing his departure as another example of the issues with the club’s fabric at that point in time, only to openly declare his desire to come back at the conclusion of a year of resurgence and in many ways redemption for several individuals and the club as a whole.
At face value this may feel opportunistic on his part, but given his personal story and how candid and genuine he was in discussing his decision in the wake of the trade being secured, I can’t help but feel his return marks another touching moment in our club’s rich history.
This isn’t to say that sentiment or romanticism should be the driving factor in what our club aims to achieve in any given year. Naturally, on-field success should always be the number one priority, but we shouldn’t discount all those little moments that play out on-field and off, amidst victory or defeat, which add to this black and white tapestry. We also shouldn’t preclude the possibility of having our cake and eating it too: Beams may yet play a vital role in bringing our 16th flag to the club, whilst writing another touching chapter into our history.
Our strategy regarding our draft picks this year was fairly complex, beginning last year with what can now only be declared as a disastrous trading of our future second round pick for Sam Murray. In some respects, the value of our first round pick this year was diminished given how late in the piece it landed, having come runner-up in the Grand Final.
Perhaps just as influential to how we valued that first round pick this year was the fact that we had Next Generation Academy prospect Isaac Quaynor on the horizon, who many expect to be bid on within the top 25, if not the first round. A dashing half-back, the club appears to be of the mind that we can secure what we feel is a first round talent with a combination of later picks and a 20% discount. The trick of course was finding enough points with these later picks, particularly in light of having no second rounder, to secure both Quaynor and father/son prospect Will Kelly without going into too much deficit in next year’s draft.
As a result, we’ve had to be a little inventive – perhaps reactive? – in trading picks in the wake of the trade period to secure more points. The move to do so via a recent pick swap with Geelong suggests that our intention this draft is set in stone: we’ll be selecting Quaynor and Kelly, adding a small/medium rebounding defender and key position defender to our stocks.
This of course takes some of the anticipation out of the upcoming draft, but there remains a little bit of mystery as to who our third selection will be — I’m happy to be corrected, but I believe clubs need to draft a minimum of three players in any given year?
I should also note that we’ve added two Irish projects to our Category B rookie list in Anton Tohill and Mark Keane, two key position prospects who like Jack Madgen and Mason Cox before them will stand outside of the main list and salary cap for their initial contract.
International recruits are always at long odds to become regular AFL players, but I’m an advocate for the club exploring all avenues and utilising every potential list spot to unearth talent — as unlikely as the origins might be. The recent story of Mason Cox is enough to demonstrate the merit of at least utilising this avenue — that preliminary final alone was worth the years of time and investment.
So in the wash-up, we’ve added some key position insurance – although I suspect Roughead will get an early look-in, depending on whether Moore is up and running – and bolstered our midfield with a top end talent. In terms of departures, our delistings were pretty much as expected with all of Fasolo, Blair, Oxley, Smith and Kirby (retirement due to health) departing.
Sam McLarty’s delisting was a bit of a surprise, but perhaps not in light of Madgen being shown preference ahead of him when we were desperate for a key defensive option. Tim Broomhead will be delisted and re-rookied if available, along with Sam Murray. I admit that the decision to retain Murray is somewhat baffling to me given that he faces a potential four year ban from ASADA.
There is some precedence given our retention of Lachlan Keeffe and Josh Smith and perhaps the club is being mindful of supporting a player during a time of need, regardless of how foolish and self-inflicted the source of his troubles are. I’m of the view that whilst I don’t think someone should have their lives completely upended for mistakes they make in their youth, I nonetheless have little sympathy for someone who was willing to jeopardise such a once in a lifetime opportunity — especially within less than a year of being granted that chance.
Personally, I would have much preferred we opened that list spot – even on the rookie list – for someone who may prove more professional and grateful for the opportunity, Mihocek being an excellent recent example. We’ll just have to see how the dust settles on the ASADA punishment and what the club elects to do in the wake of that.
So all that is left to say is welcome to Jordan Roughead and welcome back to Dayne Beams. I’m fairly content with how the trade period played out, largely because I was leaning towards keeping our core together whilst finding some value additions. We were unable to secure either of the targets we prioritised in Lynch and May, but I’ll reiterate once again that our most pressing needs can be satisfied by improving our injury management.
I suspect that if we improve dramatically in this area, we won’t dwell on what may have been.
Onwards and upwards, Magpies.