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2018 free agents: Lynch, Gaff headline monster list

Tom Lynch headlines a bumper crop of prospective free agents - AFL,Tom Lynch,Gold Coast Suns,Andrew Gaff,West Coast Eagles,Free Agency,column
Tom Lynch headlines a bumper crop of prospective free agents

GOLD Coast's Tom Lynch, Rory Sloane, Max Gawn and Jeremy McGovern headline 2018's list of prospective free agents.

The AFL won't release its official 2018 free agency list until early next year, but has compiled its own preliminary list (see below).

The list is chock-full of talent across every line.

Of the players under 30, the midfield group includes Sloane, Andrew Gaff, Luke Dahlhaus, Tom Liberatore and Mitch Wallis, while the key-position group includes Lynch, McGovern, Tom McDonald, Ben Reid and Dylan Grimes.

Elite defenders Brodie Smith, Nick Smith and Neville Jetta are also on the list, along with ruckmen Gawn, Tom Nicholls, Tom Bellchambers and Scott Lycett.

If Gary Ablett stays at Gold Coast next year he will be part of the Suns' inaugural free agency group, but the dual Brownlow medallist looks increasingly likely to seek a trade to Geelong in October's trade period.

Some of the 2018 pool's biggest names will almost certainly be missing from the AFL's official list, with their clubs working overtime to sign them as soon as possible.

Luke Shuey, Taylor Walker, Easton Wood and Jarryn Geary were set to become 2018 free agents before re-signing this year.

Sloane is reportedly on track to join them, while Gawn could also consider a contract extension before the end of the year.

The 2018 free agency group will also expand to include any players with seven years' experience or more who sign one-year deals later this year.'s preliminary 2018 free agency list 

Richard Douglas
David Mackay
Rory Sloane
Brodie Smith  

Rivals could start sniffing around Crows vice-captain Sloane if he doesn't sign a contract extension early in the year, although he will be 29 by the start of the 2019 season. Sloane will be expected to stay at the Crows. Running defender Smith, 25, is a more realistic target given his age, but the Crows will be keen to retain him. Midfielders Douglas, 30, and Mackay, 29, won't be going anywhere. - Lee Gaskin

Rohan Bewick
Ryan Lester 

Not many concerns for the young Lions list, with Lester and Bewick the only restricted targets. Lester is in the leadership group and highly thought of by everyone from management to coaches to his teammates, and will earn a new deal. After a patchy 2017, Bewick might be in a little strife. The high-leaping wingman has a number of young players vying for his spot, and with the list continually getting younger, he will have to improve to attract interest. - Michael Whiting

Marc Murphy

Murphy, who turns 31 next July, provides vital leadership and guidance to a young list and is coming off one of his most consistent seasons after having an injury-free run. He would be keen to stay, given his club's stocks appear likely to rise in the next few years. On form the skipper has several good seasons ahead of him and the Blues would see a new deal as a priority. - Howard Kotton

Jarryd Blair
Alex Fasolo
Ben Reid 

It seems there's much to play out here where Reid and Fasolo are concerned. Reid, the 2011 All Australian centre half-back, has already reached a crossroads after his shock axing in round 15. The big left-footer, 28, was used in attack but it's unclear whether the Pies see him as a long-term forward partner for the developing Darcy Moore. Fasolo continues to tease with his on-field form and his conversion rate remains a concern, but there are bigger forces at play given his brief absence mid-season due to mental health issues. Blair already appears locked in a battle to stay on the Pies' list. - Ben Collins

Tom Bellchambers 

It will be an important season next year for Bellchambers if he is keen to play on after 2018. He will be 29 at the end of the year and has had his injury battles across his career, but Bellchambers has become Essendon's first-choice big man this season in 13 games. It's unlikely he will be a priority signing for the Bombers next year given his age. - Callum Twomey

David Mundy
Aaron Sandilands

Form and fitness could dictate the futures of veterans Mundy and Sandilands beyond 2018. Mundy turns 33 next July and, while his contribution was steady for most of this year, retirement could be on the horizon for the former skipper by the end of next season. Sandilands, who turns 35 in December, managed only 10 games this year due to hamstring issues and the 211cm big man would seem likely to hand over the reins to Sean Darcy by the end of 2018. - Travis King

Cameron Guthrie
George Horlin-Smith
Harry Taylor

It would take a bit to dislodge Guthrie, who is happy at the Cats and can expect to be offered a decent extension. It shapes as a defining year for popular clubman Horlin-Smith who has been in and out of the side this season with form and injury issues, and he might have to decide if he's interested in more opportunities elsewhere. Taylor turns 32 in the middle of next year and, if his form continues as it has this season, can expect to move towards year-to-year contracts. The West Australian had the chance to move home in 2013 but signed a five-year deal with the Cats, which almost certainly means he'll play out his career in hoops. – Jennifer Phelan

Gary Ablett
Jarrod Harbrow
Tom Lynch
Tom Nicholls 

The number one job for whoever succeeds Rodney Eade as senior coach will be to convince Lynch he needs to extend his contract long-term. The Suns co-captain is one of the best forwards in the game and has the potential to attract offers rivalling those Dustin Martin just knocked back. If Ablett somehow remains at the Suns beyond this off-season, he too will become a free agent and would be no chance of staying at Metricon Stadium beyond 2018. Harbrow is arguably playing the best footy of his career and the club favourite will also be high on the Suns' wish list, while ruckman Nicholls has fallen out of favour and would be likely to get attention from elsewhere. - Michael Whiting


Shaun Burgoyne
Paul Puopolo
Ryan Schoenmakers
Brendan Whitecross 

Hawks warrior Burgoyne will enter 2018 aged 35 but with 105 straight games under his belt. If he plays close to his level from this year and if his body keeps holding up, he may yet be awarded with another 12-month contract. The Hawks love Puopolo's fearsome forward pressure and his ability to jag about a goal a week, but he turns 30 later this year and his physical approach takes its toll – he missed six weeks late this season with a niggling groin issue he couldn't shake. It will likely be rolling one-year contracts for Schoenmakers, while Whitecross is not in Hawthorn’s best 22 now and as the club skews younger, that seems unlikely to change. - Ashley Browne

Colin Garland
Max Gawn
Neville Jetta
Tom McDonald 

The Demons will presumably be keen to take star ruckman Gawn off the free agency market ahead of 2018. Melbourne also has to sign Jetta, a member of the All Australian squad of 40 this year, who is regarded as one of the AFL's premier one-on-one defenders. The versatile McDonald signed a two-year contract extension in 2016, knowing he would become a free agent in 2018. McDonald is important to the team's structure and looms as a priority signing. Garland is likely to retire at the end of next season, with the veteran defender missing the entire 2017 season after tearing his ACL. – Ben Guthrie

The Demons would love to have Max Gawn's future sewn up sooner rather than later. Picture: AFL Photos 

Shaun Atley
Andrew Swallow
Lindsay Thomas
Sam Wright 

Line-breaking talent Atley looms as the Kangaroos' top 2018 free agency re-signing priority. The No.17 pick from the 2010 NAB AFL Draft is yet to reach the heights some hoped he would, but has already racked up 154 games in seven seasons. Big decisions loom on the club's other free agents – former skipper Swallow, Thomas and Wright – possibly as soon as the upcoming trade period. Swallow and Thomas each spent time in the VFL this season, turn 31 and 30 next year respectively, and retirement is an option. Would Gold Coast be interested in Swallow joining brother David for a season? Injury has marred Wright's career and he failed to play a match in 2017 due to ongoing foot and ankle issues that require post-season surgery. – Marc McGowan

Justin Westhoff 

Utility Westhoff, 30, is likely to finish his career at the Power after triggering a one-year contract extension this year. - Lee Gaskin

Reece Conca
Ben Griffiths
Shaun Grigg
Dylan Grimes
Bachar Houli 

Dylan Grimes has established himself as one of the Tigers' most valuable players and should be a priority re-signing for the club before his three-year deal expires at the end of next year. He would attract interest with his ability to play on both tall and small opponents. Bachar Houli, 29, has also underlined his value in 2017 but can probably expect rolling one-year extensions from here. Likewise Shaun Grigg, who signed one-year extensions for both 2017 and 2018 and has performed. Reece Conca's interrupted year has him outside the 22 and clubs could look at the defender once he is a free agent. Ben Griffiths has suffered significant injuries in 2017 – expect the Tigers to stick with the key forward while also targeting young players in that position. - Nathan Schmook

Bachar Houli can expect rolling one-year deals from now on. Picture: AFL Photos

Sam Gilbert 

Gilbert won a contract for a 13th season after showing decent form in defence, and at 31, the versatile left-footer will need to keep that up if he wants to extend his career. The Saints are well stocked for backmen and would hope some of their younger players, such as Brandon White, Bailey Rice and Daniel McKenzie, put pressure on Gilbert to keep his spot in the side. - Dinny Navaratnam

Heath Grundy
Jarrad McVeigh

Nick Smith 

Veteran defender Grundy and Smith are unlikely to rush into any negotiations for contract extensions for differing reasons. Grundy has been a pillar of the Swans' defence and is still is quality form, but he'll be 32 at the end of next season and the Swans have Aliir Aliir waiting for a chance, so Grundy could retire. If he doesn't, then a one-year deal will be in play. Smith is a lock in the Swans' best team and being as loyal as they come, won't be going anywhere. He'll re-sign for another 1-2 years at some stage during the second half of 2018 as a 30-year-old. McVeigh seems unlikely to play on past 2018, with his sights firmly set on a coaching career. - Adam Curley


Andrew Gaff
Shannon Hurn
Scott Lycett
Jeremy McGovern 

List manager Brady Rawlings' priority re-signings will be All Australian duo Elliot Yeo and McGovern, with the latter set to become a restricted free agent at the end of 2018. McGovern told last week he hopes his future will be at the Eagles but the intercept marking star is certain to attract plenty of rival interest if he remains out of contract into next season. Skipper Hurn is unlikely to be going anywhere, but Victorian wingman Gaff will be on opposition radars. Lycett's future will be intriguing coming back from an injury-ravaged season, with the South Australian big man facing a strong challenge from Nathan Vardy to be Nic Naitanui's back-up next year. - Travis King

Luke Dahlhaus
Tom Liberatore
Dale Morris

Jordan Roughead
Mitch Wallis 

The Dogs shouldn't have any worries retaining heart and soul players Dahlhaus and Wallis, with the important duo likely to re-sign. Fellow midfielder Liberatore is a far different story, with the star playmaker appearing to lose his once-insatiable appetite for the contest this season. If he has another poor year, the son of club great Tony Liberatore may be better off with a fresh start. Mobile ruckmen are hard to come by, so expect the Dogs to lock away Roughead soon. And veteran Dale Morris is a year-to-year proposition but it wouldn't surprise if the gun stopper played on in 2019. - Ryan Davidson