RECOVERING Greater Western Sydney power forward Jonathon Patton has emerged as an early trade target.
The No.1 draft pick from 2011 required a third knee reconstruction midway through last year and is aiming to return to the field from about round 15 onwards this season.
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Patton's latest anterior cruciate ligament rupture was to his left knee, after his previous two were on his right knee, but he has been running strongly for months.
He headed to Philadelphia this week, like he did in 2015, to work with renowned sports rehabilitation expert Bill Knowles, who also spent time with Demon Jake Lever in February.
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Hawthorn is one club linked to the 198cm Giant, who comes out of contract next season after signing a lucrative deal in February 2017 following his breakout 2016 campaign.
The Hawks are on the hunt for Jarryd Roughead’s successor, missed out on new Tiger Tom Lynch last year and will have salary cap space at season’s end.
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They are also more willing than most to take on players with an injury history, such as Shaun Burgoyne, Jaeger O’Meara and Tom Scully.
Patton is one of GWS' highest-paid players and it is well established that he was gettable in last year's NAB AFL Trade Period during the expansion club's salary slashing.
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Melbourne teams inquired but baulked at how much money the 25-year-old had left on his contract, on top of his latest knee setback.
The Giants are adamant trade discussions are yet to take place internally, but Patton's name continues to come up – and GWS is aware of the outside murmurings.
He grew up in Rowville, in Melbourne's south-eastern suburbs, but is understood to be happy in Sydney.
Patton booted 38 goals the year before inking his current contract and backed that up with a career-best 45 majors in 2017.
However, he was dropped last year after struggling to combine his forward duties with being a back-up ruckman.
Where Patton fits in the Giants’ long-term plans is unclear, given the presence of seven-time club leading goalkicker Jeremy Cameron and emerging forward Harry Himmelberg, who signed a four-year contract this week.
Most clubs are reluctant to play three key forwards in the same side.
GWS appears to be close to re-signing budding superstar Josh Kelly, but free agents Stephen Coniglio and Adam Tomlinson are among those yet to commit.