1. Hawthorn is more ruthless than we imagined
Forget the spin and the players' reactions: Hawthorn's actions in trading away Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis for little else but salary cap space can be justified when the emotion is removed. Preferably, Lewis would have lobbed at the Suns from the Hawks' perspective, but the hard conversation with the coach sets the four-time premiership players on their future path earlier than they expected. It also opens up and refreshes the midfield. This gives Will Langford, Jono O'Rourke, Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O'Meara the chance to build a new era together. They will miss Sam Mitchell but Lewis gets a challenge and fresh opportunity and he may well look back on the decision in a very positive light. It's hard for most of us to get our heads around now (and it did not go exactly as planned), but future generations will adjust to such thinking and the Hawks will bounce back into contention quicker as a result. The one mistake Hawthorn made was back-flipping when Lewis was heading to Melbourne, before eventually letting him go.
2. Let list managers do the job but keep the theatre
Gold Coast chairman Tony Cochrane is a smart operator who stood up for his club in a passionate manner when making public commentary on negotiations surrounding Jaeger O'Meara's departure. His arrival on the football landscape is good for the game: he made sense and he made finalising a deal hard work for the Hawks. To be honest, it was refreshing to see the Hawks scrambling given their well-earned reputation for just getting the deal done. But three messages are clear. The first is a macro lesson for the Suns that they need to make the club great to attract players. They are heading in the right direction. The second is for the competition: don't take the Suns for granted, because they are genuine competitors. And a final one for Alastair Clarkson: keep turning up on people's doorsteps. It certainly makes things interesting.
3. Well-paid underperformers get traded for peanuts
Since free agency and expansion teams entered the competition, highly valued players have attracted either longer-term deals when they are at their peak, or big paydays early in their career to retain them. However this year Travis Cloke, Aaron Black, Rhys Palmer, Lynden Dunn were moved on after struggling for a spot throughout the season for virtually worthless draft selections, while Port Adelaide hoped to offload Hamish Hartlett just one year into a five-year deal. It's made the game more ruthless as clubs seek to retain flexibility.
4. Fremantle chases West Australians
Sick of their advances being rebuffed, the Dockers made a decision to chase homegrown products playing AFL outside of Western Australia. The strategy worked with Cam McCarthy, Brad Hill, Joel Hamling and Shane Kersten all accepting offers to return home. Kersten, Hamling and Hill are all 23-year-olds and McCarthy is 21 so a future generation is back and ready to chase the Dockers' first flag. The localised nature of lists is a potentially interesting development in the national competition.
5. You're welcome back if the escape door opens
Carlton's Bryce Gibbs, Geelong's Steve Motlop and the Brisbane Lions' Tom Rockliff either declared they wanted to leave or tested the market with their club's knowledge. All ended up staying. The Crows' bid for Gibbs failed without ever getting lift-off while there was little interest in Motlop or Rockliff. All three will be welcomed back with teammates aware of the twists and turns that now happen during this period, however it will not be an easy pre-season. Not only do the players have to take the market's hint but clubs have to accept their responsibility to make the player on their list as good as they can possibly become.
6. Contracts do mean something
Despite perception that contracts mean little, Carlton hung on to Bryce Gibbs because he had three years of a five-year deal to run while several contracted Hawthorn players including Luke Breust and Paul Puopolo refused to entertain the prospect of changing clubs to help negotiations with Gold Coast. Several clubs also had to hang on to players under contract, despite potentially planning to move them on. The majority of players who request trades are coming out of contract with only the occasional headline grabber such as Gibbs attempting to walk before time.
7. Management on the run
Sometimes a rule is there but often it's little known until the trade period is in progress (think of the Sydney Swans' trade ban for example). This time it was Geelong that discovered a club could apply to dip into future-round selections to make a trade despite making it difficult to guarantee the club would be in a position to make two first-round selections in a four-year period. This little known variation was made available to the Cats after they applied to the AFL for an exemption and, to the surprise of many, had it granted. Even given that clubs are never happy, the important thing is that the punters understand the rationale for each decision.
8. Pack your bags if you're a talented young Victorian in the draft
Non-Victorian clubs hold 15 of the first 19 selections in this year's NAB AFL Draft, although Essendon holds the ace with pick No.1. It makes for a nervous wait for many of Victoria's top picks, who may or may not prefer to remain home, with 12 from that state in AFL.com.au's draft expert Callum Twomey's top 30 Phantom Form Guide. Given the Dockers' penchant for trading in West Australians it will be interesting to see how they use their first selection at No.7, with Sam Petrevski-Seton and Tim English two Sandgropers who may have their name called out at that point.
9. Giant cull caused by big contract extensions
Greater Western Sydney's keenness to retain players meant its first-round picks from several years ago had their initial contract extended before they had even played with big offers in their third season. It saw the Giants embark on something of a fire sale of talented youngsters who were unable to play regular senior football. Jarrod Pickett and Paul Ahern were on big deals before playing a senior game, while Will Hoskin-Elliott also had a handy pay packet lined up for 2017 and all three found new homes. Their departures alone trimmed the TPP by $1 million for next season.
10. Hold up in CBA causing tension
It bubbles along without resolution but the clubs have been reluctant to commit to players before knowing for certain what the increase in the TPP might be under the new collective bargaining agreement. It has seen a record number of players out of contract at this late stage of the season and clubs having to change their approach late in the piece. The sooner it is resolved the better position for clubs, and those players sweating it out waiting although given what's at stake the delays are, to a large extent, understandable.