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.
HAWKS SET TO LAND CHOL
HAWTHORN is set to land Gold Coast forward Mabior Chol, who has requested a trade to the Hawks after Adelaide ended its pursuit of the former Tiger.
Chol has had interest from the Hawks, Crows and North Melbourne, with the Hawks now in the box seat to take on the goalkicker with the Crows pulling out of the race for him earlier this week.
The Hawks' offer is understood to be strongest of the chasing clubs at four years, with the Roos' interest not at that level.
Chol has two years to run on his deal with Gold Coast, but the Suns are open to letting him move given the number of key forwards they have on their list and the impending arrival of gun Academy prospect Jed Walter.
Chol, who crossed from Richmond at the end of 2021, kicked 44 goals in his first season with the Suns last year but managed just eight senior appearances for Gold Coast this year while piecing together a strong year at VFL level.
He kicked four goals in their Grand Final win and 40 goals from 16 VFL games. – Callum Twomey, Riley Beveridge
STEPHENS MOVE ON THE WAY
TALKS are progressing on a deal that sends Sydney midfielder Dylan Stephens to North Melbourne.
Stephens has requested a trade to the Kangaroos and was at Arden Street on Wednesday, chatting with North coach Alastair Clarkson.
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The former No.5 draft pick is out of contract with trade discussions amicable between the club and the possibility Stephens could be one of the early deals done once the Trade Period opens on Monday.
The 22-year-old played 13 games this season, for a tally of 43 at the club, with North Melbourne holding picks 19, 40, 52 and 60 this year as well as a full deck of picks next year, with the additional two future end-of-first-round picks supplied by the AFL for next year too.
North will also trade for Carlton's Zac Fisher, who completed a medical at the Kangaroos on Thursday. – Callum Twomey
LEAGUE TO PONDER COMPENSATION CHANGES
THE AFL is set to assess whether it begins to consider the length of a contract in its free agency compensation formula.
Currently, while a restricted free agent must be offered a minimum two-year deal to trigger free agency compensation, the final length of the contract is not a factor in deciphering which band is triggered.
It means that, hypothetically, a three-year deal activates the same band of free agency compensation as a five-year contract provided the financial terms across the offer are the same.
But, while it will not be introduced ahead of this year's free agency window that opens on Friday, the League is pondering whether the length of a contract becomes part of its formula in deciding free agency compensation in the future.
The AFL currently has a detailed points-based formula that decides free agency compensation, which considers a range of factors including the financial terms of the deal and the age of the player moving clubs among others.
Clubs losing players are made aware of the compensation being offered with 24 hours of a restricted free agency deal being lodged, with that package then made official if a choice is made not to match a rival club's bid.
Clubs are not allowed to alter the terms of any restricted free agency deal throughout the life of its contract. – Riley Beveridge
DOCKERS CONFIDENT ON RUCK STAR
FREMANTLE remains confident star ruckman Sean Darcy will turn his back on free agency and remain at the Dockers.
Darcy is contracted for next season and looms as one of the most in-demand free agents of 2024, with Victorian clubs chasing his services following the arrival of Luke Jackson last off-season.
The Dockers secured a six-year commitment from key defender Brennan Cox a fortnight ago on the eve of his free agency season.
Darcy emerged as one of the premier ruckmen in the AFL in 2021 when he won the Doig Medal and was named in the All-Australian squad for the first time.
Dockers list manager David Walls expects the club will lock Darcy in sooner rather than later following positive recent dialogue with the ruckman's manager, Scott Lucas from Phoenix Management.
"I do expect him to re-sign. How soon? I'm not sure. All the indications and the conversations we've had with Sean and his manager, Scott Lucas, and also his family have been really, really positive," Walls told Continental Tyres AFL Trade Radio on Thursday.
"He has given no sign or indication or changed any of his behaviour that would make us think that he may leave.
"We're confident that Sean is in for the long haul like Brennan. It is a contract we're working through at the moment."
Darcy missed the final five games of the home and away season after suffering an ankle ligament damage in the round 18 loss to Collingwood. – Josh Gabelich
HAWKS NOT EXPECTING BULLDOG MOVE
Hawthorn has been actively chasing a handful of players this off-season but the Hawks don't expect Western Bulldogs star Bailey Smith to move to Waverley Park this off-season.
The 22-year-old is contracted for 2024 but clubs have been asking the question of his management in recent months following a challenging season for both the club and the young gun.
The Hawks have pursued Ben McKay, Mabior Chol and Liam Henry in recent times and looked at Esava Ratugolea and Hayden McLean among other trade targets, with Massimo D'Ambrosio committing to the club last month.
Hawks head of football Rob McCartney believes Smith will complete his contract at the Whitten Oval.
"Bailey is a wonderful player. I reckon there are 18 clubs including the Bulldogs who are saying that he would make us better," McCartney told Continental Tyres AFL Trade Radio on Thursday.
"In saying that, I know the conversations with his manager are very, very clear that he is committed to the Bulldogs in 2024.
"I don't think there is anything happening in that space." – Josh Gabelich
DRAFT COMBINE KICKS OFF
THE COUNTRY'S leading draft hopefuls will gather at the MCG on Friday for the start of the AFL Draft Combine.
But some of the leading talents won't be testing at the Combine, with the 2km time trial to take place on Friday and the rest of the testing – the vertical jumps, 20-metre sprint and agility tests – on Sunday at Margaret Court Arena.
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Livewire small forward Nick Watson will miss testing with an ankle injury he had at the end of his season in the Coates Talent League Grand Final for the Eastern Ranges, while the likely No.1 pick Harley Reid will also sit out testing with a knee issue that he had from the last few weeks of the Bendigo Pioneers' campaign.
West Australian talent Dan Curtin won't test after he suffered a hamstring injury in the WAFL colts Grand Final, while a hamstring injury will also rule out Tasmanian James Leake.
Aside from the 2km time trial on Friday afternoon, the prospects will spend the first two days of the Combine locked in scheduled meetings with clubs and medical testing. – Callum Twomey
BLUES LOCK IN DEFENDER
CARLTON key defender Caleb Marchbank has signed a one-year extension after reigniting his AFL career in the closing months of the season.
The 26-year-old played his first senior game of 2023 in round 20 and held his spot for the rest of the season, featuring in all three finals with his preliminary final performance one of the best of his career.
Marchbank was forced to wait until late in the season for contract negotiations to commence, as flagged by Inside Trading, due to his injury history.
The 2014 No.6 pick didn't play at AFL level for 1069 days between 2019 and 2022 due to repeated knee injuries ranging from anterior cruciate ligament tears to meniscus issues before a lingering calf issue delayed his start to 2023.
The former Greater Western Sydney backman was playing for his career at Carlton in the second half of the season, but has now secured a deal for 2024.
Marchbank played six games in the VFL before Michael Voss picked him to face Collingwood at the end of July.
After playing only four AFL games in the three seasons prior to 2023, Marchbank played the final eight games to help the Blues return to September for the first time in a decade, before progressing past Sydney, Melbourne and then falling to Brisbane at the Gabba. – Josh Gabelich
NAUGHTON KNOCKS BACK MEGA OFFERS
WESTERN Bulldogs star Aaron Naughton rebuffed huge rival interest to re-sign for a mega eight years at the Dogs.
As reported by AFL.com.au's Inside Trading on Wednesday, Naughton had closed in on a big new deal with the Bulldogs in recent weeks and he has now committed until 2032.
It makes him the longest contracted player in the competition – overtaking Nick Blakey (2031) and Harry McKay (2030), Brennan Cox (2030) and Clayton Oliver (2030).
It came amid huge rival interest from Sydney, West Coast and Collingwood, with Essendon, Geelong and Melbourne also among the clubs to have shown interest in the high-flying forward.
The Swans had made a big play for Nick Larkey before he re-signed with North Melbourne. – Callum Twomey