WHAT THEY NEED: With Scott Thompson approaching the twilight of his career the Crows need to find someone else to do the tough stuff at the contest. Patrick Dangerfield has been sensational this season, but the midfield has been exposed at times when he's moved forward. The club has dropped off in the contested football stakes this year and that's helped it fall from the second-best clearance side in the competition last year (40 per game) to 11th this year (36).
CROSSROADS: Small forward Ian Callinan offers much more to the club than just his playing ability, but there's no doubt he's slipped down the pecking order this year. He's an important mentor at West Lakes and has a wealth of football experience, but coach Brenton Sanderson is focused on the future of the club and would likely play an up-and-comer instead. The 30-year-old has only managed three games this season and with the speed of the game on the rise, Callinan looks like being left behind.
TIME TO GO? While a popular figure around the club and exceptionally talented, Bernie Vince hasn't been able to get the best out of himself for a number of seasons now. He set the bar high when he took out Adelaide's club champion award in 2009 but has struggled to live up to it since. On his day Vince is a genuine match-winner, which might offer the draft-barred Crows something at the trade table.
- Harry Thring
WHAT THEY NEED: A tall forward. The Lions went hard for Kurt Tippett, have expressed interest in Lance Franklin and even tried to land mini-draft selection Jesse Hogan – they are desperate for a key forward. There's not many around, but Sydney Swan and Queensland native Jesse White has shown improvement in his rare appearances and might attract some interest. A key back would not go astray either with Matt Maguire (29), Daniel Merrett (28) and Joel Patfull (28) in the latter stages of their career.
CROSSROADS: The future of two Lions legends lies in their own hands with Jonathan Brown and Simon Black possibilities of retiring at the end of the season. Young South Australian Jared Polec and Victorian Patrick Karnezis are big calls for the Lions. Polec was taken with pick five in the 2010 NAB AFL Draft and has been hampered by injury in his three seasons, while Karnezis just can't earn a regular senior call-up. Both have class and would be likely to attract outside interest.
TIME TO GO? The Lions have cried out for a forward for years, and now in his fifth season, Aaron Cornelius still cannot command a regular game despite the search. Surely he will look elsewhere for opportunity. Jesse O'Brien has run and flair but has had a mixed four seasons, as has Irishman Niall McKeever who has elite run and provides a contest, but has been surpassed at both ends of the ground by younger players (Justin Clarke and Marco Paparone).
- Michael Whiting
WHAT THEY NEED:
A key forward. The Blues create enough scoring opportunities and move the ball fast, long and direct, but lack a long-term marking target to take the pressure off injury-prone star Jarrad Waite
and to allow Levi Casboult to develop at his own pace. They tried to lure Travis Cloke away from Collingwood last year and, with extra salary cap room, would certainly consider making an approach to off-contract Hawthorn superstar Lance Franklin, and would certainly be in the market for out-of-contract Bombers Scott Gumbleton and Stewart Crameri. Carlton may also try to manoeuvre to secure potential No. 1 draft pick Tom Boyd.
CROSSROADS: Nick Duigan and Jeremy Laidler were key components of the Blues' back six under previous coach Brett Ratten, but they have managed just one game apiece under Mick Malthouse. Duigan, a member of the club's leadership group who was also a captaincy candidate, has paid a heavy price for a poor showing in the round one loss to Richmond, while Laidler has been recast as a forward in the VFL. Tagger Aaron Joseph has played just three games, his most recent appearance being in round four.
TIME TO GO? The Blues' ruck dilemma appears to have been solved, with the versatile Matthew Kreuzer emerging as the preferred No. 1 big man, despite displaying so-so form. Fellow ruckmen Shaun Hampson and Rob Warnock have spent a lot of the season in the VFL and appear depth players. All parties would likely benefit if one of them moved elsewhere.
- Ben Collins
WHAT THEY NEED: Collingwood's ruck stocks are not where the club wants them to be. They have two proud stalwarts, in Darren Jolly and Ben Hudson, and two talented – but developing – big men in Brodie Grundy and Jarrod Witts. A player such as Essendon's Tom Bellchambers to fill this age gap makes sense. The Pies may also be in the market for a 'third tall' forward to ease the pressure on Travis Cloke. The Pies could also target a lockdown small defender to play on the opposition's nippy small forwards, which is an area they have been exposed in this season.
CROSSROADS: The Pies' injury concerns have given a number of fringe players a chance to prove their worth this season. However, there are a couple still seemingly on the outer at the Westpac Centre. Irishman Marty Clarke, who is contracted until the end of 2014, has been stuck in the VFL for much of this year and may benefit from a change of scenery. Collingwood's abundance of 'ready-made' rookie elevation picks may also create a few hassles from a list managementpoint of view.
TIME TO GO? Collingwood could have a flurry of retirements later this year, with a number of their elder statesmen nearing the end of their careers. Veteran ruckmen Hudson and Jolly appear likely to hang up the boots, while a run of injuries may force Ben Johnson into an early retirement. The situation with Andrew Krakouer also remains up in the air, while Dale Thomas has put contract talks off for the time being.
- Ben Guthrie
Could Dale Thomas be wearing different colours next season? Picture: AFL Media
WHAT THEY NEED:
The Bombers have most bases covered on their list, particularly after bringing in Brendon Goddard as a free agent last year. But another midfielder would fit well, particularly one with a bit of speed who wins his own ball. Taylor Adams is attracting a lot of interest from Victorian clubs
and the Greater Western Sydney midfielder would suit the Bombers nicely if he chooses to come home at the end of the year.
CROSSROADS: Leroy Jetta signed a two-year deal with Essendon last year, committing to the club to the end of 2014, but seems to have been usurped by small forwards Nick Kommer and Jackson Merrett. Jetta has played some reasonable football at VFL level but has broken into the senior side for only three games.
TIME TO GO? Despite his talent and capabilities, Tayte Pears is struggling to get consistent games in an Essendon line-up full of key position players. Pears would capture the interest of a number of clubs looking at building their tall defensive stocks and would have a tough call to make if a rival club offered him more opportunities.
- Callum Twomey
WHAT THEY NEED: The Dockers are the best defensive team in the competition but they need a quality key forward to take over from Matthew Pavlich when he retires. They have Matt Taberner and Tanner Smith already on their list as development players but Fremantle has tried - and failed - to recruit Mitch Clark and Travis Cloke in past seasons. There are not a lot of tall forward options in the free agency list so they may continue to build their stocks through the draft.
There is a group of second and third-year players who are struggling to break into the strong Dockers line-up who may well follow the path of Dylan Roberton and move to another club for opportunity
. These players include Tom Sheridan, Viv Michie, Jesse Crichton and Cameron Sutcliffe. All would have currency at the trade table should the Dockers not require them.
TIME TO GO? Alex Silvagni was a mature-age recruit from the VFL via the 2010 rookie draft but has struggled to get a regular game under Ross Lyon. He hasn't been able to find a role at either end of the field and the 25-year-old could well look for a chance to return to Melbourne to play more regular senior football.
- Alex Malcolm
WHAT THEY NEED: The Cats will likely eye a big-bodied midfielder at the end of the year. Geelong may lose three-time premiership players Paul Chapman and Joel Corey at the end of the season, which will rob their engine room of some serious grunt. It also means they will be crying out for someone to lend a bit of physical support to Joel Selwood.
CROSSROADS: Along with Chapman and Corey, veteran defender Josh Hunt is also a chance to retire at the end of the season. All three will be out of contract by then. They have enjoyed brilliant careers, with Chapman and Corey playing in three flags and Hunt playing in two.
TIME TO GO? Ruckman Dawson Simpson has been an impressive contributor for the Cats in their recent matches against the Brisbane Lions and Fremantle. But the reality is that Simpson has played only seven games in five-and-a-half seasons. If Hamish McIntosh and Nathan Vardy can get their bodies right, Simpson appears likely to be moved on.
- Adam McNicol
WHAT THEY NEED: A power forward. Tom Lynch, Charlie Dixon, Steven May and Sam Day have all shown development this season, but it's still the one area of the ground that could do with help. A bloke from Hawthorn called Lance Franklin would solve the only headache left for coach Guy McKenna. He would fast-track what the others will provide in two to three years time. A tall defender would also help out Rory Thompson.
CROSSROADS: Three of Gold Coast's initial uncontracted player signings might be in limbo at the end of the season. Campbell Brown has hinted this may be his last year, but his terrific form might require a re-think from both club and player. Nathan Bock (broken leg) hasn't played seniors since early 2012, while Michael Rischitelli has also been dogged with injuries and been passed in the midfield by junior talent. Surely the Suns won't keep all three. Experienced defender Matthew Warnock came to prop up a young backline and has done superbly, but with Thompson and Day developing, and Henry Schade still in the wings, his future may be in question.
TIME TO GO? It's a brutal task trimming the Suns' list when they've invested so much time into so many young players, but it still needs culling. South Australian Dan Gorringe was a high draft pick, but has slipped a long way down the pecking order for both rucks and forwards when everyone is fit. He looks like good trade currency. Jacob Gillbee is a candidate after struggling to break into the senior team, while Liam Patrick has shown flashes of brilliance, but has been surpassed in the small forward/half-forward role. Form on the park over the final nine rounds will also determine the future for players like Jack Hutchins and Joel Wilkinson.
- Michael Whiting
Gold Coast ruckman Daniel Gorringe may be targeted by rival clubs. Picture: AFL Media
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY
WHAT THEY NEED:
The Giants clearly need help all over the ground. Key position players are a must, with a defender, a forward and a ruckman among their chief targets. They have undoubted talent through the midfield, but need some experienced heads and mature bodies to bring it all together. The pursuit of Buddy Franklin is seemingly a daily discussion point,
but others have been mooted, including Jack Riewoldt, Tom Bellchambers, Dale Thomas and brothers Mitch and Nathan Brown.
CROSSROADS: With so many youngsters still making their way on their list, there aren't too many that would be classified as out of favour at this point. There will be some decisions made at year's end, however, with some outside talent certain to be brought in. Bret Thornton has played just the one game since moving up from Carlton, while the likes of ruckman Tom Downie and midfielder Josh Growden are yet to make their senior debuts. They are both still very young, but would be keen to push closer to senior selection by season's end.
TIME TO GO?
The majority of the Giants' list has been locked away for the short to medium term, but there are some exceptions. Taylor Adams has put contract talks on hold
and has been linked with a return to Melbourne. GWS could end up using him in a potential trade deal. Nick Haynes is also out of contract and struggling to establish himself in the team. At the other end of the scale, Dean Brogan and Chad Cornes will retire, freeing up some more cap space for 2014.
- James Dampney
WHAT THEY NEED:
A goalkicking midfielder. There aren't many holes in the Hawks' list, but they wouldn't mind an extra midfielder who can burst out of stoppages and push forward to kick goals. Someone like restricted free agent Dale Thomas would fit the bill nicely
. However, finding salary cap space for any established player would only seem possible if Hawthorn's own restricted free agent, Lance Franklin, departed. Priority No.1 will be to retain him.
CROSSROADS: Small forward Michael Osborne hasn't played senior football since round eight and, despite some solid form at VFL level, looks to have his work cut out to regain his place before the finals. The 30-year-old is a loved member of the club and has worked hard in the past 12 months to come back from a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament, but others have gone past him in the pecking order.
TIME TO GO? Osborne and Brent Guerra are the two veterans who will likely consider retirement at the end of this season. Guerra is still playing senior football, but will turn 32 in 2014. Provided he can stay fit, he'll pass 250 AFL games this year and, if the Hawks can salute on the final Saturday in September, it may be the perfect way to draw curtains on an outstanding career.
- Mark Macgugan
Michael Osborne faces a battle to reignite his career at AFL level. Picture: AFL Media
WHAT THEY NEED: Midfielders. The Demons failed to attract Collingwood's Sharrod Wellingham during last year's trade period, and the attempt to procure the Saints' Farren Ray fell at the last hurdle. Luring midfielders is tough but a new set-up with an experienced coach might be enough to entice a young Victorian playing interstate to return home and build a career at the Demons.
CROSSROADS: James Magner has not kicked on after an impressive start to his career, while Luke Tapscott is likely to be subject of discussion at the trade table given he has a long-term contract. He is a strong player who would add value to a more experienced side.
TIME TO GO? Two weeks ago it would have been Jack Watts and a few others looking to move but the team seems re-energised by the plan club CEO Peter Jackson has outlined. Having said that, unrestricted free agent Colin Sylvia has a decision to make and if he attracts offers would be better served at having a premiership tilt in a strong side rather than trying to drag the club up the ladder. Melbourne will want to keep him but he could be seen in a new light in a new jumper as he has been a hard worker in the past 18 months but his reputation precedes him.
- Peter Ryan
WHAT THEY NEED: The Roos will likely be looking for a classy outside midfielder to complement the inside grunt of Andrew Swallow, Jack Ziebell and Ben Cunnington. Collingwood free agent Dale Thomas and Brisbane Lions youngster Jared Polec fit the bill but will be hard to prise from their existing clubs. North could also do with an injection of pace on its forward line, a need free agent Eddie Betts (Carlton) would obviously fill.
CROSSROADS: Key defender Luke Delaney has been unable to break into North's team this season despite his strong VFL form and has already attracted healthy opposition interest. Out of contract at the end of this season, Delaney will almost certainty request a trade if he continues to struggle for opportunities. Ruckman Daniel Currie could also seek a new AFL home after just one season at Aegis Park. The former Sydney Swan has been extremely impressive in the VFL, but as Todd Goldstein's understudy, has not played a senior game. Wingman Will Sierakowski appears to be playing for his football future in the second half of this season.
TIME TO GO? Veteran defender Michael Firrito, 29, is out of contract this year and North faces a tough call on his future. Firrito remains a versatile backman and, at his best, mixes resolute defence with counterattack. However, he has been to prone to costly lapses in discipline this season and North could decide the time is right to replace him with a young defender such as Cameron Delaney or Ayden Kennedy. However, Brent Harvey's strong form since returning from suspension in round six suggests he will get his wish to extend his AFL career into a 19th season next year.
- Nick Bowen
North ruckman Daniel Currie could one who seeks more opportunities in 2014. Picture: AFL Media
WHAT THEY NEED: Lewis Stevenson and Campbell Heath were both brought into the side to try and cover the loss of Danyle Pearce last year and, while both have played well at times, neither has managed to cement their spot in the line up. With Kane Cornes nearing the end of his career, a pacey defender/midfielder would complement the likes of Oliver Wines, Chad Wingard, Brad Ebert and Travis Boak perfectly.
CROSSROADS: Tall forward Daniel Stewart has had ample opportunities at AFL level, but unfortunately he just hasn't managed to grasp them. Stewart's a tall, athletic, talented left-footer who amazes at times at SANFL level but he hasn't been able to take the next step. At 24, there still time for Stewart to make a go of his AFL career, but given what the Power have seen in his 36 games, that might have to be with another club.
TIME TO GO? Nick Salter has had wretched luck when it comes to injuries, particularly stress fractures in his feet. He's missed a lot of football in recent seasons and although he's now back at SANFL level, there's no room for him in the Power's side. John Butcher, Mason Shaw and Jay Schulz are the key forwards and in defence Alipate Carlile and Jackson Trengove have been well supported by Jack Hombsch and Tom Jonas.
- Harry Thring
WHAT THEY NEED: The Tigers need to regenerate their ruck stocks, with 30-year-old Orren Stephenson close to retirement and currently the only back-up option for Ivan Maric. A list of potentially available ruckmen is forming, with North Melbourne's Daniel Currie a likely target. Currie, 24, has not been able to break into the Kangaroos' side behind Todd Goldstein, but his tap work is highly regarded. Gold Coast's Daniel Gorringe and the Brisbane Lions' Billy Longer are young ruckmen on the radar.
CROSSROADS: Tall forward Luke McGuane started the season in a blaze of glory, kicking nine goals in the opening month. His output dried up, however, and the unrestricted free agent has been out of the side for the past four matches. Small forward Robin Nahas has also found himself on the outer for the first time in three years, playing five games and being used at times as the substitute.
TIME TO GO? Rookie recruits Sam Lonergan (two games) and Ricky Petterd (five games) haven't received consistent opportunities and might test the waters come season's end. Speedster Matt White is another who remains on the fringe as the club's young midfielders emerge. Key position player Ben Griffiths, who has earned games at both ends of the ground in previous seasons, has only played once this year (in round one) and may question when he will get his chance to bed down a consistent role in the team.
- Nathan Schmook
The Saints will be aggressive in recruiting at the season's end and their recent 64-point loss to Richmond emphasised their need for a key defender.
The Saints chased Mitch Brown hard last year but couldn't reach a deal with West Coast, but he is out of contract at the end of the season, while James Frawley is signed for another year but could be looking for a fresh start after seven years at Melbourne. However, a new coach at the Demons will offer a fresh outlook so he might be happy where he is.
CROSSROADS: It's fair to say Justin Koschitzke will get to his 200-game milestone and retire at the end of the season while Jason Blake – injured at the moment – hasn't played much seniors this year and will also likely hang up the boots. It's uncertain what will happen with Stephen Milne on a variety of fronts while Lenny Hayes could look to a 16th season depending on how he comes back from persistent calf problems.
TIME TO GO?
Nick Dal Santo is the Saints' fifth free agent along with the veterans listed above but is in the restricted category. He has a clause in his contract that gets him another season if he passes a medical
but at 29, could look to chase success at another club. If third-year rookie and 2012 Sandringham best and fairest winner Tom Curren can't cut his way onto the senior list, he would be within his right to look elsewhere too.
- Jennifer Phelan
The prospect of an elusive flag could give Nick Dal Santo pause for thought. Picture: AFL Media
WHAT THEY NEED:
The Swans are in the enviable position of not having too many glaring holes in their list. The opposite could in fact be true, with their key position stocks well filled and plenty of young talent coming through. Possibly a small crumbing forward to supplement Ben McGlynn and Mitch Morton could be a target, while Marty Mattner's retirement
means there is a gap in the backline. But the debuts of Dane Rampe, Brandon Jack, Tom Mitchell, Jed Lamb and Xavier Richards this year show there is talent waiting in the wings.
CROSSROADS: With so many injuries affecting the senior list this season, a number of fringe players have been given a chance, which they have taken. Jesse White, who was offered as trade to help secure Kurt Tippett last year, has played a role during Shane Mumford's injury-forced absence, while Andrejs Everitt has also proven a valuable utility. Harry Cunningham, who made his one and only senior appearance in round one, 2012, appears to have slipped down the pecking order, but he is still progressing well at a club boasting significant depth.
TIME TO GO? Apart from Mattner's forced retirement due to injury, the only other possible voluntary departure would be club great Jude Bolton, although there is some possibility he could keep going. Some players picked up in recent years, such as Alex Brown, Jordan Lockyer and Shane Biggs, are yet to make their senior debuts and will be hoping for a strong finish to 2013. Defender Tony Armstrong is another who keeps jumping in and out of the senior team and will be keen to lock down a regular spot in the backline.
- James Dampney
WHAT THEY NEED: The Eagles appeared well-placed for flag contention this year but it hasn't worked out so far. They have lacked pace and polish in the midfield. They recruited Sharrod Wellingham to add to the depth but they could look to pick off some young West Australians at the expansion clubs who are looking to come home.
CROSSROADS: There are quite a number of mature-age players who have been in and out of the Eagles line-up this year. Mitch Brown is the highest profile but he's played more regularly than he did in 2012 when he requested a trade. Will Schofield, Brad Sheppard, Ash Smith, Scott Lycett, Jacob Brennan and Ashton Hams are players that could attract interest from other clubs for their particular roles.
TIME TO GO?
Adam Selwood and Andrew Embley have been magnificent servants for West Coast but both have struggled with injury and form throughout 2013 and would be hard pressed to continue next year. Mark Nicoski is another who has had a wretched run with injury
and after two full years on the sidelines, he might well have to consider his future, even though the club has vowed to support him in his injury rehabilitation.
- Alex Malcolm
WHAT THEY NEED:
It's no secret the Western Bulldogs would love to snare a proven key forward when the trade period commences later this year. It's been their Achilles heel since Barry Hall left the club. Someone like Stewart Crameri would be an appealing target for the Bulldogs. Under-18 prospect Tom Boyd would be another.
Having already felt the pain of the compromised drafts in recent years, the Dogs would love to secure the most exciting young talent in the country. The club will no doubt explore the option of trading their first round pick, and potentially a quality player, in order to obtain that coveted No.1 selection, and sign up Boyd.
CROSSROADS: Daniel Cross continues to toil away in the VFL, consistently named in the best without the reward of a recall. The veteran has been dropped to give the Dogs' emerging midfield a chance to develop, and grow. Jarrad Grant is another in no-man's land. Picked at No.5 in the 2007 draft, Grant hasn't played a game this season, and looks to be on his last legs at the Western Bulldogs.
TIME TO GO? Daniel Giansiracusa is playing great football, but it is believed he will hang up the boots at season's end and pursue a coaching career. Daniel Cross' days at the club also appear to be numbered, so too Jarrad Grant's.
- Jacqui Reed
Daniel Cross could be at the crossroads at the Western Bulldogs. Picture: AFL Media