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Free agency, trades, draft: Every AFL club's list needs ahead of 2022

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The footy world never stops, and while the Demons are still in celebration mode after their drought-breaking 2021 AFL Grand Final victory, most clubs have had their eyes firmly on 2022 for many weeks.

ESPN expert Chris Doerre has taken a look at every club's list needs and come up with some trade and free agency moves to look out for.


Adelaide

List needs:

  • Established players

  • Veteran leaders

  • Midfield variety

Draft Picks: 4, 23, 37, 59, 63, 77

Who should they target?

With the youngest list in the AFL in 2021, Adelaide is only getting younger and less experienced following key retirements and delisting's to number of their veterans. To maximise the rate of development of their youth, the Crows need to find complementary veterans and established players who can play a role in a more competitive team.

Jordan Dawson will be Adelaide's priority during the trade period. With Dawson wanting to return home to South Australia, it's an ideal opportunity to improve their defence and upgrade their list.

Delisted veterans Bachar Houli, Hamish Hartlett and David Zaharakis are among the no-cost options who are proven performers, but more importantly for Adelaide, candidates who can support the development of their younger players.

Given where Adelaide is situated in the draft, a move down from pick 4 for Jordan Dawson and Sydney's pick 12 as the core components to a deal would place Adelaide in an ideal spot in this draft to address their most pressing list needs. Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera as a classy outside ball user and Matthew Johnson as a classy 192cm inside midfielder are two who could be available around 12 and respectively provide much needed contrast to the Crows' industrious albeit small midfield.

Brisbane

List needs:

  • Rebounding defender

  • Established ruck support

  • Established key forward

Draft Picks: 14, 18, 47, 51, 57, 73, 87

Who should they target?

Former Essendon rebounding defender Conor McKenna has hinted at a return to AFL football, and would be the perfect fit for the Lions off half-back if he can be coaxed into an comeback.

With Brisbane lacking ruck depth following the retirement of Archie Smith, GWS ruckman Matthew Flynn would make sense for the Lions, as a competitive ruckman who has proven himself as more than able this season.

With Brisbane needing additional support up forward following Eric Hipwood's ACL injury, Levi Casboult (pending a medical) could be a contested marking force to take pressure off Joe Daniher and provide a suitable short-term complement.

Carlton

List needs:

  • A third star midfield to support Sam Walsh and Patrick Cripps

  • Established ruckman

  • Crumbing forward

Draft Picks: 6, 25, 61, 79

Who should they target?

The key to the Blues improving is adding good midfielders to support Sam Walsh and Patrick Cripps. Adam Cerra appears the perfect third option through the midfield and is worth Carlton's first-round pick.

With Carlton presently lacking a convincing established ruckman, Jon Ceglar could provide such an option on the cheap to provide Tom De Koning and Alex Mirkov additional time to develop and determine whether they're lead ruck material, especially given Marc Pittonet's struggles to stay healthy.

Through the draft, Jesse Motlop (son of Daniel) is a crumbing forward and forward pressure specialist who would be an ideal successor to the retiring Eddie Betts if available in the second round. Although Motlop is a Fremantle Next-Generation Academy prospect, under this year's rules, the Dockers can only match bids outside the first 40 for metropolitan Indigenous players, which would see Motlop a Blue if Carlton selected him with pick 25.

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Collingwood

List needs:

  • Nick Daicos

  • Key position players

  • Midfielders

Draft Picks: 36, 39, 41, 45, 75

Who should they target?

Collingwood's offseason will revolve around ensuring they have the points available to secure Nick Daicos, regardless of whether a bid of pick No. 1 or pick No. 2 comes for him. The son of Peter looms as Collingwood's next midfield star and will add much-needed class. The key for Collingwood is avoiding a points deficit and not trading away their 2022 first-round pick as that will likely be Collingwood's key to finding a long-term key forward. South Australian pair Harry Lemmey and Isaac Keeler are two the Pies should have their sights set on for 2022.

Given Collingwood would like to add draft picks rather than lose them through trades, 2020 delistings Sam Skinner and Blake Schlensog are strong, low-cost additions who would strengthen Collingwood's key defence stocks as two AFL-calibre key defenders.

Undervalued midfielders Patrick Lipinski and Luke Dunstan who both are seeking new homes and greater senior opportunity. The uncontracted pair are both good enough to step into Collingwood's best side and play prominent midfield roles.

Essendon

List needs:

  • Outside running wing

  • Contested ball winning midfielder

  • General forward

Draft Picks: 11, 48, 53, 84

Who should they target?

With Essendon looking to position themselves as best they can with a view towards targeting Ben King next trade period, Essendon likely won't get too aggressive and will look to maintain a strong draft hand for 2022.

Through the draft with their first pick, Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera is the ideal fit on a wing for the Bombers as a special mover and classy ball user. The Bombers will be hoping his strong Under-19 Championships play hasn't pushed him into top-10 calculations.

Dropping out of St Kilda's best 22 in recent years, Luke Dunstan is arguably an underutilised midfielder. Securing 10 or more contested possessions in each of his last 10 matches for the Saints and averaging almost 24 pressure acts per game this season, Dunstan would provide Darcy Parish and Zach Merrett with much needed midfield support.

As a forward, Josh Caddy has been under-utilised and arguably played out of position in recent years could add value to Essendon's front half. Kicking 46 goals in 2018 and proving hard to stop one-on-one, Caddy was a goalkicking force and meaningful inside-50 threat. If given the chance again to play forward, hemay be able to rediscover some of this form and provide the Bombers with an additional avenue to goal.

Fremantle

List needs:

  • Key forward

  • Key defender

  • Midfield quality

Draft Picks: 8, 27, 81

Who should they target?

With the Dockers in need of another key forward, underutilised Giant Jake Riccardi is an option. Kicking eight goals in his first three AFL games, and starting 2021 in the VFL with 40 disposals and 19 marks in defence, then eight goals as a forward the next week, he's a high-flying talent in need of regular opportunities and continuity to play his best football.

Right under Fremantle's nose, WAFL star Blake Schlensog -- a former Geelong Category B rookie -- has been the premier key defender in the competition having improved rapidly this season. He is a ready-made solution down back who reads the play behind the ball as well as anyone in the AFL level.

With Adam Cerra requesting a trade, Fremantle will need to add to their midfield. The out-of-favour Stephen Coniglio looms as an obvious target having been dropped in each of the past two seasons by the Giants and seeing his midfield minutes diminish. If Fremantle can convince the Giants to pay a portion of Coniglio's sizable contract which will conclude at the end of 2026, it's an opportunity to replace Cerra and provide the Dockers with the flexibility going into the draft to take the best available talent with their first selection.

Geelong

List needs:

  • Established ruckman

  • Key defender

  • Run and drive from defence

Draft Picks: 30, 32, 34, 52, 88

Who should they target?

Geelong's point of difference through the draft for a long time now has been their mature age talent ID - headlined by the selections of Tim Kelly and Tom Stewart in recent times. Geelong no doubt has paid attention to the state leagues again this year, and Leek Alleer in the SANFL is the ultimate replacement for the retiring Lachie Henderson. Geelong may need to move up a few spots in the draft if they want to ensure Alleer is theirs, but with all the picks they hold and the evenness of the draft, that should be easily achieved.

Geelong's weakest link for several years now has been through the ruck, with the Cats lacking confidence in the consistent capabilities of Rhys Stanley. The underutilised Peter Ladhams who is seeking opportunity as a genuine No. 1 ruck would be a significant upgrade. Port Adelaide won't give Ladhams up cheaply, but Geelong can feature him more prominently than Port Adelaide have been able to, and he would be worth the price tag.

With Geelong a relatively older and slower team lacking in the way of run and drive from defence, former Essendon rebounding defender Conor McKenna (who has hinted at a return to AFL football) would be the perfect fit off half-back. The meaningful drive he generates with his run and work by foot was before his return to Ireland among the very best in the competition and is a missing ingredient good enough to give the Cats a significant boost.

Gold Coast

List needs:

  • Veteran leadership

  • Established players who improve the best 22

  • Josh Ward and Bodhi Uwland

Draft Picks: 3, 19, 22, 43, 55, 58, 66, 76

Who should they target?

Gold Coast continue to struggle developing their own talent and a component to that is a relative lack of veteran leadership. With Mitch Wallis seemingly forgotten at the Bulldogs this season, and veterans Bachar Houli, Hamish Hartlett, Daniel Talia, David Zaharakis, and Levi Casboult all delisted, they're among the names of which the Suns should be asking questions.

The other priority for the Suns is bringing in established players who can improve their best 22. One such player is Rory Lobb. Lobb is prepared to move on from the Dockers and would provide Ben King with much needed support up forward and provide ruck relief to a returning Jarrod Witts.

There is a lot of talk around the Suns moving the No. 3 pick. If Jason Horne-Francis and Finn Callaghan are first two live picks, the obvious choice for the Suns if the draft plays out this way is midfielder Josh Ward. Aside from Daicos and Horne-Francis, Ward is arguably a third sure thing given his Daicos-calibre final month.

Bodhi Uwland is a second prospect the Suns must secure to maximise their draft haul. Uwland is an Academy prospect and has played some strikingly strong football for Gold Coast in NAB League while also playing a competitive brand of football in the VFL.

GWS

List needs:

  • Key forward who can play relieving minutes through the ruck

  • Speed and class

  • General defender

Draft Picks: 2, 13, 50, 68, 86

Who should they target?

With Sydney yet to sign Sam Reid to a new deal, the Giants are the perfect spot for the unrestricted free agent as a key forward who can play relieving ruck minutes as required.

With the Giants' No. 2 pick, Finn Callaghan is the obvious choice as a tall, classy, smooth moving 190cm midfielder. While the Giants are loaded through the midfield, they have a lot of the same slower ball-winning types, and would welcome the touch of class and incredible agility, evasion and dynamic run Callaghan would introduce.

Academy prospect Josh Fahey will be a priority for the Giants to match bids on. Generating meaningful drive from defence, Fahey was awarded the AFL Academy's best player in their clash against Geelong's VFL side. The Giants will be hoping a bid for Fahey comes after their pick 13.

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Hawthorn

List needs:

  • Outside run

  • Midfield class

  • Ruck youth

Draft Picks: 5, 21, 24, 56, 62, 78

Who should they target?

Contracted on a long-term deal until the end in 2025 to the Saints, Bradley Hill is someone who hasn't gelled on-field and looks like a shadow of the player he was for Hawthorn and Fremantle previously. Better suited to the wider expanses of the MCG, Hawthorn may be better able to get the most out of Hill and secure him cheaply if they enquire into his availability.

As a classy midfielder, 192cm Matthew Johnson has the skills, composure and evasion that make him a nice choice to complement the Hawks' midfield. If Johnson was to be Hawthorn's target, they may even be able to move down a few spots from the No. 5 pick and still secure him.

With Hawthorn's aging rucks Ben McEvoy and Jon Ceglar on their last legs, prospect Toby Conway would be worth selecting in the second or third round as a developable and aggressive ruck.

Melbourne

List needs:

  • Retaining talent and maintaining the team chemistry

  • Maintain future salary cap flexibility by minimising list additions

  • Go to the draft and secure the best available talent

Draft Picks: 33, 42, 54, 91

Who should they target?

Melbourne's list situation is one whereby their focus needs to be on retaining talent instead of adding it. The Demons need to ensure maximum flexibility to their salary cap situation and maintain their competition-best team chemistry and list synergy at all costs.

While Melbourne may be the best situation for a draft prospect to enter, mature age Western Australian midfielder and Sandover Medallist Bailey Rogers is one of the few at the draft who both may be available at Melbourne's first pick, and who can add immediate value. A sound complement to Melbourne's star midfielders, Rogers is a classy, high impact per possession midfielder who can also cause problems for opposition defences when used up forward.

With Michael Hibberd aging, overager Jack Avery would be a capable successor with one of Melbourne's selections. A 190cm defender, Avery intercepts, rebounds and hold his own against taller and stronger forwards.

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North Melbourne

List needs:

  • Jason Horne-Francis

  • General defenders

  • Veteran leadership

Draft Picks: 1, 20, 38, 69, 74

Who should they target?

It feels like a formality at this stage following his incredible finals series, but Jason Horne-Francis is the player North Melbourne should be drafting with the first overall selection. Having developed strongly, Horne-Francis has the scope to be a top-10 midfielder in the competition, with not only the ball winning and offensive components to his game, but his pressure and effort defensively as good as any to come through the junior ranks.

With North Melbourne lacking good youth in defence, overager Jack Avery would be an incredible value choice mid-draft. He could earn senior games next season and be a long-term piece.

Committed to join North Melbourne as a development coach, Tom Lynch remains good enough to continue playing and would be a walk-up start in North Melbourne's best-22. He's a must to sign as a player and an optimal choice as a veteran leader, to help develop North Melbourne's young group.

Port Adelaide

List needs:

  • Jack Lukosius

  • Izak Rankine

  • Midfield youth

Draft Picks: 16, 60, 70, 71, 89

Who should they target?

Contracted until the end of 2022, Gold Coast pair Jack Lukosius and Izak Rankine should be aggressively hunted by Port Adelaide in order to put together the most intimidating core of young talent in the competition - even if it means forfeiting proven established players and picks to do it.

With Lukosius initially projected to develop into something like a sweeter kicking Nick Riewoldt, and Izak Rankine taking over games and making everyone else look second class back before they were drafted, the pair's best chance to fulfil their potential may be with the Power, given their underwhelming development to date. The Power should put forward a compelling offer this offseason to at minimum make their intentions known, and if unsuccessful, go again aggressively next year.

If Port Adelaide hold onto the 16th pick, South Australian midfielder Matthew Roberts would be an incredible value selection as a ready-made midfielder who has been performing strongly in the SANFL against League opposition.

Richmond

List needs:

  • Midfield youth

  • Key forward

  • Key defender

Draft Picks: 7, 15, 26, 28, 40, 44, 80

Who should they target?

With talk around the Suns being open-minded to moving the third overall pick, Richmond would be wise to offer their picks 7 and 15 with a view to drafting Josh Ward. Ward finished the NAB League season as strongly as any and looms as a best available selection and midfielder good enough to add to Richmond's best 22 next season.

With Jack Riewoldt on his final legs and Callum Coleman-Jones expected to join North Melbourne, the underutilised Jake Riccardi would fit well, if targeted. Riccardi kicked eight goals in his first three AFL games and may provide an inexpensive solution.

Seeking a new opportunity with Richmond, Robbie Tarrant looms as a sound short-term replacement for the retiring David Astbury. On return from kidney surgery, Tarrant showed he can still play good football.

St Kilda

List needs:

  • Midfield star power

  • Key defender

  • Key forward/ruckman

Draft Picks: 9, 46, 64, 82

Who should they target?

The Saints' off-season focus needs to be on adding low-cost players and securing a strong draft position for 2022. Mason Cox could be a low-cost stop-gap both up forward and through the ruck. The ultimate plan of the Saints will be to reunite the King twins, bringing Ben to join Max to play together again - and for the team they grew up supporting, but this may need to wait until at least next trade period.

As it's the midfield the Saints need to upgrade, selecting Arlo Draper with the No. 9 pick is a move the Saints should consider. A skillful, classy midfielder who can win his own ball and push forward to provide a marking threat, Draper would provide a point of contrast.

St Kilda have plucked some out-of-favour names other clubs over the yers, and while there is little chatter around his name as he is contracted for one more season, Billy Frampton poses an intriguing potential replacement to Jake Carlisle. While Frampton has mostly played forward and struggled to convert his SANFL success to AFL level, Frampton's finish to the AFL and SANFL seasons in defence suggest he can make a key defence post his own.

Sydney

List needs:

  • Key defender

  • Midfield youth

  • Ruck prospect

Draft Picks: 12, 31, 67, 85

Who should they target?

Surprise delisting Daniel Talia would add further size and stability to Sydney's defence. Talia remains motivated and steadfast in his belief he is a best-22 calibre footballer and can play for a few more seasons.

To add to Sydney's midfield, Matthew Roberts would make sense at pick 12 as a ready-to-go midfielder following his success at SANFL League level.

With Sydney light-on for young ruckmen, Toby Conway in the second round would present a strong choice in this year's draft as a competitive ruckman to have learning his craft under Tom Hickey.

West Coast

List needs:

  • Midfielders

  • Crumbing forward

  • Outside run

Draft Picks: 10, 29, 35, 49, 65, 83

Who should they target?

Carlton's Sam Petrevski-Seton has looked unsettled being thrown around the ground and being played out of position. He lost a good deal of his early career confidence over the past two seasons and if West Coast can provide Petrevski-Seton with meaningful midfield minutes, he can get back to playing some of his better football.

As crumbing forwards, local talent Jahmal Stretch and West Coast Next-Generation Academy prospect Richard Farmer are two exciting late draft opportunities who could be capable complements to their existing forwards.

Underutilised by Geelong and unable to earn regular selection over the past couple of seasons, Jordan Clark would add much needed outside run and drive to West Coast as a contrasting piece who could be featured more prominently. Next-Generation Academy prospect Arthur Jones who starred last weekend in the second Under-19 Championships clash may be another option.

Western Bulldogs

List needs:

  • Sam Darcy

  • Established ruckman

  • Established key defender

Draft Picks: 17, 72, 90

Who should they target?

The top priority for the Dogs is securing father-son and son of Luke Darcy, Sam. Darcy is this year's top rated key position player, and possessing ruck height at 206cm, the Dogs will do their best to pick Darcy, avoid a pick deficit, and be positioned to draft other players.

With Stefan Martin managing just nine games including finals, the Dogs need to plan for their next ruckman, even if Martin is extended. Collingwood's Max Lynch will continue to be relegated to depth behind Brodie Grundy, and may be an optimal choice. With Max Lynch filling in for two games when Brodie Grundy was out with his neck scare, Lynch held his own and competed well, particularly against Max Gawn.

Former Brisbane key position player Sam Skinner is the premier key defender outside the AFL, and presents an ideal key defence solution and partner for Alex Keath. His play since switching into defence through the second half of 2021 for South Adelaide has been irresistible, headlined by a 10 contested mark, 11 intercept mark finals performance against Norwood.