LONG-RANGE recruiting heists mean it's never too early to survey the free agency and out-of-contract market for the following season.
Players are increasingly requesting trades while under contract but the process is much simpler when they aren't locked away – just ask Joe Daniher, Tom Papley and Tim Kelly.
AFL.com.au has looked at your club's most intriguing out-of-contract footballer ahead of next season.
Brad Crouch (free agent)
Gold Coast showed interest in the Crows' 2019 club champion, although the Suns were unwilling to give him the deal ($1 million a season) he craved. Crouch has had his injury issues and can be a bit untidy with his disposal, but he was a strong performer all season and few players can find the Sherrin like he does.
Ely Smith (out of contract)
Smith is one of seven first-round draftees (out of 23) from last year yet to sign an extension. The trend these days is for those players to be re-contracted quickly. The Lions haven't been shy about signing players for the long term but Smith and his management might be keen for him to have more leverage first. Averaged almost 20 disposals in 15 NEAFL games this year.
STICKING FAT Loaded-up Lions a long way from the 'Go-Home Five'
Matthew Kreuzer (free agent)
Turns 31 in May next year, but that's not necessarily a problem for ruckmen if they are still performing, as Kangaroo Todd Goldstein's new deal proved. The difference is Goldstein's been extremely durable, whereas Kreuzer has played 15 or fewer games in four of his past six seasons. Ex-Hawk Marc Pittonet has also arrived to challenge for the Blues' No.1 ruck mantle.
Brodie Grundy (free agent)
This could easily be Darcy Moore or Jordan De Goey. However, the public nature of Grundy's contract demand (seven years), as well as Adelaide's interest in the South Australian-born ruckman, makes this a must-watch situation. The Pies also have to find money for All Australian captain Scott Pendlebury and even underrated forward Brody Mihocek, so something might have to give.
GRUNDY, DE GOEY, MOORE How Pies plan to keep star-studded list together
Joe Daniher (free agent)
As if it would be anyone else. Daniher wanted to leave the Bombers for the Swans to escape the Melbourne football bubble but Essendon list boss Adrian Dodoro didn't budge. He will be a restricted free agent next year, so the Bombers can choose to match any offer from Sydney or another club. Daniher could yet change course and elect to re-sign but this will be an ongoing big story.
Luke Ryan (out of contract)
Ryan's become one of the competition's best intercept marks since the Dockers plucked him from VFL club Coburg in the 2016 NAB AFL Draft. Victorian teams would have struggled not to notice that the 23-year-old averaged 20.4 disposals and 2.4 intercept marks down back this past season. Will have suitors if he wants to return home but Freo won't want to lose him.
Sam Menegola (free agent)
There was some chatter about the West Australian in the most recent Telstra AFL Trade Period but he will fulfill the final year of his deal with the Cats. A knee injury interrupted his 2019 campaign but he made it back for rounds 21 and 22 before being dropped to the VFL for three weeks. Menegola returned to play all three of Geelong's finals and will look to have a big 2020 season.
Jack Lukosius (out of contract)
The Suns re-signed Ben King and will look to do the same with Lukosius, a precocious South Australian talent taken at No.2 in last year's draft. The 19-year-old played 21 of 22 games in his debut season and can fill a key post at either end of the ground or even on the wing. Adelaide and Port Adelaide would love to bring him in but Gold Coast will be just as eager to keep him.
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GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY
Zac Williams (free agent)
Most of the attention will be on the Giants retaining fellow free agents Jeremy Cameron and Lachie Whitfield but Williams – from country New South Wales – should be a coveted signature, too. Averaged near-on 24 disposals this year playing mostly across half-back but his star showing as a midfielder against Collingwood in their preliminary final proved his first-class ability.
Isaac Smith (free agent)
Was linked to the Western Bulldogs from mid-season but enjoyed his best stretch of form in the second half of the year and the Hawks already had him signed up for 2020. Will start next season at 31 years of age and his and Hawthorn's performances might determine where this one ends up. The Hawks are ruthless with their veterans when they want to be, so nothing will surprise.
Christian Petracca (out of contract)
Multiple clubs enquired about Petracca this year but there wasn't any interest from the 23-year-old or the Demons in moving him. There is still major upside in Petracca, who played the best and most consistent football of his career in 2019 after a relatively slow start. Finished in the top five of Melbourne's club champion award for the first time and rival teams won't stop watching.
Taylor Garner (free agent)
Mason Wood also fits the bill here after the Roos made him available leading into this year's Trade Period. However, another footballer from the same 2012 draft who has experienced similar bad fortune with injury is also worth keeping tabs on. Garner's played only 43 games but illustrated his capabilities, including a great leap, in 2017 and could be a player of interest.
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Sam Powell-Pepper (out of contract)
Powell-Pepper didn't want to go anywhere when talk of Bomber Orazio Fantasia potentially coming to the Power surfaced, even with Essendon long liking him. He is from Western Australia but that doesn't automatically mean he wants to go home. Powell-Pepper spent time in the SANFL mid-season and any more of that may get the strong-bodied onballer thinking about his future.
Jack Graham (out of contract)
Graham wasted little time making an impact at Tigerland, winning a premiership and almost a Norm Smith Medal in his fifth AFL game in 2017. The South Australian's had down patches since, including time in the VFL, but his 22-disposal, four-goal game against Carlton highlighted his strong second half of this year. A badly timed shoulder re-dislocation cost him playing in the Grand Final.
Jake Carlisle (out of contract)
Triggered an extra year on his contract for 2020 but the Saints were reportedly open to trading him before a change of heart. Has had disciplinary and injury issues – most recently his back – but there's no doubting his quality as a key defender. Dougal Howard's arrival, along with the presence of Josh Battle, Callum Wilkie and Nathan Brown, means St Kilda isn't as reliant on Carlisle as it once was.
Matthew Ling (out of contract)
Lewis Melican and Ben Ronke were other options, but the ex-Geelong Falcon is the forgotten man from the first round of the 2017 draft. Zac Bailey, Ed Richards and Jack Higgins were the three players selected behind him. Ling's blessed with great speed but injuries have cruelled him and limited him to only 16 NEAFL games in two years. A change of luck is surely in store.
Andrew Gaff (free agent)
Went close to accepting a lucrative long-term offer from North Melbourne last year, only to re-sign at the Eagles for six seasons after missing out on the flag. The catch? Gaff can opt out after only two at the end of 2020. There aren't many dual All Australians running around, and Victorian clubs in the premiership window – and with cash to splash – will and should give him a long, hard look.
Bailey Smith (out of contract)
There's little reason to believe Smith will leave the Kennel but eyebrows are always raised when a top-10 selection hasn't re-signed before his first season is over. That may change if players start delaying their second contracts. Smith was highly impressive this year and won't move interstate, so it's likely only a matter of time until the teenager agrees to extend his time at the Dogs.