Moneyball: Latest trade news, contract updates, Brodie Grundy, Ben McKay, Brandon Zerk-Thatcher, Zac Fisher

Brodie Grundy was won over by a Sydney pitch about his lifestyle and work-life balance in the Harbour City compared to a football-heavy presentation from Port Adelaide.

As reported by the Herald Sun on Saturday, Sydney believes it has secured the commitment from Grundy as long as a deal can be brokered with Melbourne.

The Power was the strong favourite initially and made an enticing pitch to the South Australian led by coach Ken Hinkley and young midfielders Connor Rozee and Zak Butters.

But while it was an impressive presentation which talked about how he could maximise his football gifts, Sydney went down a different path.

Just as Lance Franklin was lured north by the idea of escaping the footy bubble – and to be closer to partner Jesinta – Grundy is keen on the Sydney lifestyle.

Sydney spoke to him about the ability to have a life away from football, with partner Rachel also able to move her work as a physio working in intensive care and emergency units.

He has never wanted to live and breathe footy, and after a huge two seasons of publicity heading to somewhere like Sydney is the perfect remedy.

The Swans do have impressive young ruckman Lachlan McAndrew, who is contracted next year, but with Grundy and forward-ruck Peter Ladhams, it is the ideal ruck battery.

So the question is if Grundy requests a trade, who do Melbourne fall back on as a replacement given they won’t trade him unless they have a back-up ruck for Max Gawn?


Sydney might be the strong favourites to secure Brodie Grundy but Essendon has emerged as a leading contender for Dons free agent Ben McKay.

Sydney had pushed strongly and lodged a compelling financial offer but Essendon has now made clear its interest and according to industry sources is the favourite for his services.

Hawthorn is the third option, with McKay now having three strong deals that would all trigger first-round compensation for North Melbourne, which would secure them pick three in the draft.

What is not known is whether they are three or five-year deals.

A three-year deal worth over $750,000 would likely be enough for first-round compensation.

But given the competition the clubs might have to offer longer than three seasons.

It is a remarkable statement about the power of free agents and key defenders given McKay was in extremely modest form early in the year coming off a bone stress fracture.

Now he has his pick of three clubs and could yet secure a long-term deal worth up to $4 million.


Richmond small forward Maurice Rioli has committed to completing a massive off-season of training to give himself the best chance of playing regular football after a below par third season.

Rioli kicked 14.7 last year in his second season in 15 matches but regressed this year with 2.5 from 10 games and was often used as starting substitute or subbed out mid-game.

He notably refused to answer the phone to assistant coach Xavier Clarke before accepting when subbed off against West Coast.

Both times he has returned from his off-season breaks having to play catch-up but has committed to a better off-season break as he works on a fitness regime.

Rioli is committed to the Tigers until the end of next year, so needs to make every post a winner.

Richmond has scoured the market for another key forward but at this stage is unprepared to offer up significant money to drag a second-string forward out of another club.

It means the Tigers will be desperate for star forward Tom Lynch to return to play out a full season after twin surgeries for a metatarsal fracture in his foot.

The Tigers will also be open to playing Noah Balta forward again after trialling him in attack late in the season.

The club’s top 10 pick of 2022, Josh Gibcus, is another player who could be trialled in attack.

Richmond’s Jacob Bauer played four games late in the year as a forward and will get more chances, as will mid-sized pair Judson Clark and Noah Cumberland.


Gold Coast could trump Sydney’s stunning one-draft academy haul of Braeden Campbell and Errol Gulden with an astonishing four players taken in the top 30 this year.

The football world knows all about possible No. 2 pick Jed Walter as well as ruckman Ethan Read and 172cm mid Jake Rogers.

But rival clubs are falling in love with powerful 186cm midfielder Will Graham and will lodge bids for him in the top 30.

It is another reason why the Suns aren’t interested in Dustin Martin – as they have to find the draft points for four players.

But as revealed last week the Dogs are in the box seat for the Suns’ pick 4 by giving up pick 10 and 17.

The Suns would then look to on-trade pick 10 to a rival for even more draft points to secure their quartet of kids.

A No. 4 overall pick that is worth around 2000 trade points – which can be used to match bids – might in the end haul it up to 3000 points.


Hawthorn will back in its draft strategy and hope Ben McKay chooses them as a free agency destination after losing out to St Kilda on Liam Henry this week.

The Hawks were informed by Fremantle wingman Henry’s camp that despite their impressive presentation he preferred to move to the Saints this weekend.

The Hawks are adamant they are not interested in Carlton’s Zac Fisher, with their only targets in the trade period Henry and McKay.

They desperately need another ready-made key position back given top 10 pick Denver Grainger-Barras has not come on as expected.

But WA teen Daniel Curtin could be off the board by the time the Hawks No.3 pick is taken, with the Eagles keen on the local interceptor.

Will McCabe could go in the top 20 as an exciting and athletic 198cm key defender but he will take time to make an impact at AFL level.

The Hawks still need to orchestrate a trade for Tyler Brockman, who is likely to request West Coast as his trade destination after deciding on a move home.


St Kilda’s Zak Jones expects to learn his fate in the coming days as coach Ross Lyon and co sift through the club’s 2023 season, but he remains desperate to stay at Moorabbin.

Jones, 28, had an injury interrupted season, managing only four matches to take his career tally to 136, but is hopeful of a change of fortune next season.

He is out of contract and waiting for confirmation if he is in the Saints‘ 2024 plans, with a decision expected soon.

Jones was pushing hard to return to the Saints’ line-up leading into the finals, playing in a VFL scratch match against Collingwood last Saturday, hours before St Kilda’s season ended in a loss to Greater Western Sydney.

He remains one of the Saints’ most popular players, and believes he can get back to his best next season if he is given a new deal with the club.


As the AFL’s pay deal comes closer to being brokered, clubs like Essendon which mostly refuse to include a percentage of any new pay rise in contracts could be sitting pretty.

The new pay deal will see players paid an average of $600,000 by 2027, but every contract is different.

Some clubs only offer deals with guaranteed money but without reflecting future pay rises, some keep the first 3-5 per cent of any pay rise each year.

Some AFL stars have enough leverage to demand that if the salary goes up 15 per cent in any given year, so will their wage.

Many of Essendon’s recent deals do not have that rise factored in, and new Dons CEO Craig Vozzo is very supportive of that principle.

When the Dons broker new deals the new pay figure will be factored into many of those contracts but it will allow them a moment in time where they can save cap space.

The Dons already have over $2 million of cap space saved away but are opening their war chest for offers to players including Ben McKay, with the Dons mentioned as a possible suitor for Jade Gresham on Monday.


AFL list bosses and player managers say smaller list sizes and the number of plus-30 veterans playing on are behind the list crunch that will deny many players new starts this year.

Many clubs are telling player managers trying to find new homes for their players they simply do not have any list spots available.

The AFL cut list sizes by two in Covid as a cost-saving measure and they have not expanded.

Clubs who once forced out most players over 30 are now having those veterans play on, with 106 players in the competition competing this year as a 30-year-old or older.

Some clubs might only take one or two fresh players in the national draft before upgrading rookies.

It means under-18s hoping to live their AFL dream will be denied, while contracted players like Lochie O’Brien and Brandan Parfitt who had hoped to move on can’t find new homes just yet.

Originally published as Moneyball: The latest contract updates and trade news in the AFL

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