Every Thursday AFL.com.au presents Inside Trading, with breaking news and the best analysis of the AFL trade landscape covering contracts, re-signings, free agents, the AFL Draft and industry insights.
CLUBS WALK KEY DEFENSIVE FINE LINE
BEN McKay's free agency decision between Essendon and Hawthorn leaves a number of clubs walking a key defensive tightrope as the market thins for options.
AFL.com.au's Gettable revealed on Wednesday that Sydney was no longer in the race for McKay, with the North Melbourne restricted free agent to stay in Victoria and choose between the Bombers and Hawks.
Essendon's long-held interest in the 25-year-old has been known, with AFL.com.au reporting in July that he had met the club, while Hawthorn's interest was reported in August in Inside Trading.
The Hawks have continued to up the ante in their hopes to land McKay having missed out on their pitch to Esava Ratugolea.
McKay's decision to narrow his options to the Hawks and Bombers show the way clubs are having to tread a thin line whilst chasing key backs in a slim marketplace.
With Ratugolea and Brandon Zerk-Thatcher having nominated Port Adelaide as their preferred home, Melbourne telling Adam Tomlinson he is a required player for 2024 and that he will see out his contract, Sydney re-signing Lewis Melican, North re-contracting Kallan Dawson and Essendon's Kaine Baldwin penning an extension, the available pool of ready-made key backs is dwindling.
Adelaide free agent Tom Doedee remains unsigned but has strong interest from Brisbane and also has Collingwood in the frame, which was reported by Inside Trading last week.
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Port Adelaide's Tom Clurey is open to a trade despite having two years to run on his contract, while Adelaide youngster James Borlase is yet to receive a deal from the Crows and has attracted rival interest. The Crows are looking at Gold Coast tall Chris Burgess in a trade, potentially to play key defence, while Fremantle free agent Joel Hamling is also of interest to clubs seeking key backs.
Plenty hinges on McKay's call, with the Swans now having to pivot their search and whoever misses from the Hawks or Bombers to also need to hit the marketplace. – Callum Twomey
ROOS LOOM FOR LATE PICK CHASE
NORTH Melbourne shapes as a possible late contender for Gold Coast's prized pick No.4 if the Roos are granted an early selection as part of their assistance package from the AFL.
The Roos currently hold picks No.2 and 14 (tied to Port Adelaide) but are also expected to gain pick No.3 for Ben McKay's free agency compensation.
Clubs believe they could also be awarded a mid-first round pick – at No.11 – as part of an assistance package from the AFL, with a potential other pick next year at the end of the first round as part of an extended, staggered handout.
A decision will come next week from the AFL Commission, with some of the Gold Coast's model of their 2019 assistance package potentially in play.
The Roos' delegation last week met with the League to put forward their case for AFL assistance after winning 12 of their past 84 games. Any priority access for Ryley Sanders is now considered unlikely.
If awarded the pick in the middle of the first round, the Roos will then become a late contender for the Suns' pick if they packaged pick No.11 and Port Adelaide's first-round pick together to move up the board and give the Suns extra points to match for their trio of gun Academy players.
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The Western Bulldogs are currently in a strong position to land the pick given they hold picks No.10 and Brisbane's first-rounder, with Melbourne and Adelaide also vying for the pick.
The second layer that is important for whoever gets the selection is the appeal for the Suns to then keep on trading back down the draft while accruing points.
It means that, for instance, if the Dogs traded for it, the Suns would then likely put the Dogs' pick No.10 up for trade as well to see if they can push back but maintain a strong hand of picks. – Callum Twomey
ANOTHER YEAR FOR NARKLE
QUINTON Narkle has signed a one-year deal to continue his AFL journey at Port Adelaide after earning a lifeline via the Mid-Season Rookie Draft.
The 25-year-old will remain at Alberton in 2024 after playing three games for Ken Hinkley’s side after making his debut against Geelong in round 14.
Narkle was delisted by the Cats at the end of last season after playing 41 games across five seasons at Kardinia Park.
After almost earning another shot at Richmond during the pre-season supplemental selection period, the West Australian joined Essendon's VFL team before earning his chance at the start of June.
Narkle played seven games in the SANFL but couldn’t break back into the senior side in the run to September. – Josh Gabelich
SAINT WAITING ON CONTRACT CALL
ST KILDA wingman Dan McKenzie is still waiting on a contract offer from the Saints, with rival clubs monitoring his situation following a campaign heavily disrupted by a series of soft tissue injuries.
McKenzie hasn't played senior football since June last year after battling ongoing injury problems including significant calf issues, but had been the side's first-choice wing option throughout the first half of last season.
It's understood a number of clubs have registered their interest in the hard-working wingman, confident the 27-year-old can overcome his injury problems and tempted by his status as an unrestricted free agent.
St Kilda has a number of key contract calls to make over the next month with Nick Coffield, Hunter Clark, Liam Stocker and Zak Jones among those still unsigned, while its star restricted free agent Jade Gresham is also weighing up his future. – Riley Beveridge
GIANT'S UNCERTAIN WAIT
GREATER Western Sydney veteran Lachie Keeffe will be the only player on the MCG in Friday night's preliminary final without a deal for 2024.
The 33-year-old has enjoyed a late-career resurgence at the Giants across the past two seasons, playing 13 of the past 15 games following 18 appearances last year.
Keeffe is understood to be keen to extend his time at GWS into a seventh season after initially joining Collingwood back in 2008, but the Giants won't make a call on the tall utility until next month.
The Queenslander has played in 10 wins since earning his first shot under Adam Kingsley in round 11, where the first-year coach has used Keeffe as a back-up ruckman to support Kieren Briggs and allow Jake Riccardi to play as a permanent forward.
Two of the four ruckmen on the list – Matt Flynn and Braydon Preuss – are out of contract and could land at new homes during October's trade period.
The Giants aren't expected to be too active next month, but Inside Trading revealed last week they do have interest in out of favour Adelaide utility Elliott Himmelberg, who would fill the role being performed by Keeffe.
Himmelberg – the 25-year-old brother of GWS gun defender Harry – is on the Giants' radar heading into the trade period after being limited to just three senior appearances for the Crows in 2023. – Josh Gabelich
CUT POWER BIG MAN CATCHES INTEREST
DELISTED Port Adelaide tall Brynn Teakle is on the radar of a few clubs who are searching for a back-up ruckman this off-season.
The 23-year-old was cut by the Power on Tuesday following six games after arriving at Alberton via the 2022 Mid-Season Rookie Draft.
North Melbourne, Greater Western Sydney and the Western Bulldogs have all expressed interest in the West Australian as they prepare for ruckmen to depart during next month's trade period.
Jordon Sweet has already requested a trade to Port Adelaide, Todd Goldstein is expected to depart Arden Street for Essendon, while Gettable reported last month Matt Flynn has been pursued by West Coast this year.
St Kilda is also in the market for another ruckman to support Rowan Marshall, with veteran journeyman Tom Campbell out of contract.
Teakle endured a frustrating injury run at Port Adelaide, breaking his collarbone in his debut against Sydney before a navicular foot injury sidelined him in the middle of 2023 after he played four AFL games in a row.
The 204cm, 102kg Northampton product also spent some time as a key forward and key defender during his 18 months at Port Adelaide.
The Power announced three other list changes this week but ruck duo Scott Lycett and Sam Hayes are yet to re-sign with the club, with Port Adelaide also interested in Richmond premiership player Ivan Soldo.
Teakle can be selected as a delisted free agent when the window opens for a week at the start of November. Fergus Greene and Francis Evans both landed second chances via the delisted free agency window last year. – Josh Gabelich
CADDY ROCKETS INTO TOP-10 CALCULATIONS
POTENTIAL top-10 pick Nate Caddy has credited stints training at Carlton for his rapid improvement in 2023, with the Northern Knights and Vic Metro forward rocketing up draft boards following a standout final season of junior football.
Caddy, a 192cm marking option, kicked 25 goals from nine matches for the Knights this season, while he also kicked two goals in a promising performance representing Carlton's VFL team back in May.
Speaking on AFL.com.au's trade and draft show Gettable this week, the athletic and powerful Caddy said his time with the Blues provided him with a valuable indication of his level heading into draft time.
"That was a really good experience," Caddy told Gettable.
"I learnt a lot from it and I kind of got to see where I'm at with the bigger bodies. It was good to be with all of the Carlton-listed players that played. I got a lot out of it, even though it was a windy day down in Williamstown."
Caddy's debut with Carlton's VFL side midway through the season followed a week-long stint training at Ikon Park last summer, with the teenager heading to the Blues as part of the AFL Academy program.
It was an experience that sparked a terrific campaign, with Caddy's unique skillset highlighted in a performance against the Bendigo Pioneers back in June where he kicked six goals from 25 disposals and nine marks.
"I did a bit of training with Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay," Caddy said.
"It was cool. I definitely got a lot out of it, just seeing how they prepare for things and how they train. I think I went there during their hardest week. I tried (to cope), but I was definitely tired after it." – Riley Beveridge
RISING STAR ON CLUBS' RADARS
CLUBS have been keeping tabs on Sam Clohesy as a draft prospect this year, with his chances rising after claiming the VFL's Fothergill-Round-Mitchell Medal this year.
The medal, which recognises the most promising young talent in the VFL competition under 24, has proven to be a fast-track to the AFL, with the 15 winners prior to 2022 going on to be drafted to an AFL list.
Clohesy will now be hoping to follow in the steps of those winners, which include Bayley Fritsch, Luke Ryan, Jake Riccardi and Nic Newman.
Clubs have been watching Clohesy this season, with the 20-year-old defender considered a strong chance to land a spot at an AFL club after a breakout season with grand finalists Werribee.
The 189cm defender has averaged 17 disposals this season, having a season-best 26 disposals in last weekend's preliminary final win.
Clohesy has been through a number of different programs in recent years, including being a member of the Gold Coast Academy for a period, the Calder Cannons and also Sydney's VFL side. – Callum Twomey
ANOTHER QUAYNOR COMING
ISAAC Quaynor's incredible form has been one of the revelations of Collingwood's season. And another Quaynor might be on the way to the AFL system.
Luke Quaynor is eligible for the draft next year and was a prospect who showed impressive development in the second half of the 2023 campaign for the Oakleigh Chargers.
A very similar player to his older brother, the 17-year-old Quaynor plays off half-back, is similarly built, bounces out of defence with speed and takes the game on. Unlike his accomplished older brother, who has been crucial to the Pies' premiership push this season, Luke Quaynor is a left-footer.
The 179cm Quaynor missed one of the Chargers' final games of the season through illness but couldn't break back into the team.
Quaynor is tied to Collingwood's Next Generation Academy for next year under the same system that saw Isaac land at the Pies, although whether the cut-off for ability to match bids has changed by then remains to be seen. Currently clubs can't match bids until pick 40 although that is expected to change under an ongoing NGA review.
He will be one of three Chargers to be NGA eligible to the Pies next year, alongside Tadhg McCarthy and Doug Kerr. – Callum Twomey