STEVEN Motlop's future is unlikely to become clear until late in the season with the forward and Geelong still in no rush to start contract negotiations.
Motlop was put up for trade at the end of 2016 after a frustrating year when he reported for pre-season training overweight and then struggled to perform consistently despite finishing second at the club for goals (38).
The forward attracted early interest from Richmond, but despite his game-breaking talents no serious trade suitors emerged, with his 2017 salary – believed to be up to $600,000 – a complicating factor for rival clubs.
Motlop is set to become a restricted free agent at the end of this season, but both he and the Cats are content to delay serious contract talks for now.
The 26-year-old reported to 2017 pre-season training in excellent condition and has pleased the Cats this season with his improved defensive efforts and adherence to team structures.
Over the first nine rounds, he has averaged 20.3 possessions a game – 31.3 per cent of them contested, up from 25.7 per cent last year – and is ranked first at the Cats and equal second in the AFL for running bounces (24), third at the club for goal assists (seven), and fourth for goals (11) and inside 50s (32).
However, as good as Motlop has been at times this year, he has again struggled for consistency.
It's believed the Darwin product is happy at Simonds Stadium but understands more than ever after last year's trade period that AFL football is a business.
Motlop's restricted status will give Geelong the right to match any rival offers made when this year's trade period opens in October.
Selected at pick No.39 in the 2008 NAB AFL Draft, Motlop has played 121 games and kicked 164 goals for Geelong.
He finished second in the Cats' 2015 best and fairest award and was in the 40-man squad for the Virgin Australia AFL All Australian team in 2013 after kicking a career-high 44 goals.