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COMMENT: Why Murphy should consider the Dees

Could Marc Murphy be best suited by turning his back on the Blues? - AFL,Carlton Blues,Marc Murphy
Could Marc Murphy be best suited by turning his back on the Blues?

ANDREW Gaff is the clear No.1 target of clubs looking for a shot of outside class from this year's free agency crop, but Marc Murphy looms as an attractive alternative.

Gaff is free agency's equivalent of a burger with the lot – a bona fide star who's young enough – he turns 26 on Saturday – to be coveted by contenders, pretenders and every team in between.

The West Coast midfielder has predictably drawn frenzied interest in his home state, Victoria. Melbourne, St Kilda, North Melbourne and Carlton are among the teams linked to him, while it's understood unofficial offers worth up to $900,000 a season are on the table.

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Murphy is a class act too. But at almost five years Gaff's senior, his use-by date becomes a potential deterrent for rival suitors.

The Carlton captain turns 31 next month and has shown signs of wear and tear in recent years, missing half a season in 2016 with an ankle injury and all bar four games this year with plantar fasciitis.

However, just last year, Murphy played all 22 games and averaged nearly 30 possessions – he did not once dip below 24 – to win the Blues' best and fairest award ahead of All Australian defender Sam Docherty.

When he's been healthy, Murphy has been as productive as ever. Picture: AFL Photos

Outside midfielders are in short supply on this year's free agency list, too.

Where teams looking for an inside on-baller have Adelaide star Rory Sloane and Western Bulldogs trio Luke Dahlhaus, Tom Liberatore and Mitch Wallis to consider, the outside options thin out rapidly after Gaff and Murphy.

There is Crow David Mackay, who turns 30 next month and is averaging 16.5 possessions a game this year, and Kangaroo speedster Shaun Atley, who has long been earmarked for a midfield role, but seems to have found his niche across half-forward. But that's about it.

Given the competition for Gaff is so intense and West Coast is in the midst of a stellar season that will make it hard for him to leave, the Eagle's suitors need a contingency plan.

Murphy is probably not the right fallback option for North Melbourne and St Kilda, who are both likely to focus on younger targets as they continue to reshape their lists.

In fairness, neither of those clubs is likely to appeal to Murphy either.

The 2011 All Australian has played just six finals in 13 years at Carlton and never made it past a semi-final. Understandably, he wants to enjoy some on-field success in the limited time he has left in the game.

The likelihood of North or St Kilda giving Murphy a late shot at a premiership over the next two years isn't strong enough to justify him leaving a Carlton team that could rebound quicker than expected on the back of youngsters such as Patrick Cripps, Charlie Curnow, Caleb Marchbank and Sam Petrevski-Seton.

Melbourne, on the other hand, appears a good fit for Murphy.

After a 12-year absence from the finals, the Demons finally seem to have the talent, culture and game plan to have an extended crack at a premiership over the next few seasons, with some even predicting 2018 could be their year.

Murphy appears just as good a fit for Melbourne.

With the Dees boasting a raft of stoppage hard-nuts including Jack Viney, Clayton Oliver, Nathan Jones, Angus Brayshaw and Jordan Lewis, Murphy would slot in beautifully on a wing, where his elite foot skills could be used to maximum effect.

Murphy's skill set would mesh nicely with Melbourne's list. Picture: AFL Photos

Of Murphy's other options in Victoria – he's extremely unlikely to look outside his home state given he has a young family – Richmond, Hawthorn and Collingwood have their hands full chasing Gold Coast's Tom Lynch, Essendon is focused on bolstering its inside strength, and the young Western Bulldogs appear to be in a transitional phase after their drought-breaking 2016 premiership.

Geelong has been linked to Murphy, and its recent record as a perennial contender would surely appeal to him.

However, would the Cats want to add another veteran a year after welcoming Gary Ablett home? Especially when their 2018 list is the AFL's equal third-oldest?      

That remains to be seen. What's clear, however, is that Murphy would almost certainly have to take a pay cut to chase success outside of Carlton.

Industry sources estimate he could command about $600,000 a season to stay at Carlton, most likely on a two-year deal. That's still a sizeable cut from his existing four-year contract that is understood to be worth, on average, around $750,000 a year, but a team like Melbourne would be more likely to offer him between $450,000 and $500,000.

So $200,000 to $300,000 over two years looms as the price Murphy must pay to have a final tilt at a flag.

If Melbourne comes knocking with an offer, Murphy should seriously consider making that sacrifice.

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs