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Blues-Crows bombshell trade: Will the gamble pay off?

Eyebrows raised as historic live trades shake up draft Matt Thompson speaks to key clubs at Draft HQ
We rated him (Liam Stocker) very highly
Stephen Silvagni

STEPHEN Silvagni was doing his best to channel his inner Billy Beane at Marvel Stadium.

While the Carlton list manager's decision to give up a future first-round draft selection to Adelaide for pick No.19 shocked many on Thursday night, the deal was all about the maths – much like many of Beane's own moves, made as general manager of baseball franchise the Oakland Athletics and portrayed famously by Brad Pitt in the movie 'Moneyball'.

On face value, the trade appears ultra-risky; Carlton has failed to finish outside the bottom six in four consecutive seasons, while Adelaide remains in its premiership window despite a rocky 2018 campaign where the Crows missed the finals altogether.

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Needless to say, it was a bold play.

But crunch the numbers and the pick swap looks one worth making for a team on the rise.

In addition to receiving the pick that saw Carlton nab Liam Stocker, the Blues also managed to secure Adelaide's 2019 first-round selection to accompany the midfielder at Ikon Park.

Essentially, the trade was a two-for-one in terms of first-round draft picks.

Of course, the obvious risk is that Carlton endures another season to forget in 2019. A bottom-place finish would obviously leave them without the coveted pick No.1.

But based on the AFL's Draft Value Index (DVI), the Blues will accrue more value from the deal should it finish 14th or above next year – regardless of the Crows' fortunes.

Even if Adelaide wins the flag – which is arguably a bigger 'if' than Carlton finishing 14th on the ladder – the Blues will have gained more DVI points than they will lose from the trade.

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Under this hypothetical, the cumulative total of this year's pick No.19 and next year's pick No.18 is 1933 DVI points. The total value of next year's pick No.5 – should the Blues finish 14th – is just 1878 DVI points. 

From a PR perspective, losing a top pick is never a good look. However, Carlton isn't banking on losing a top pick, it's banking on being one of the AFL's big improvers in 2019.

That confidence in the club's ability to improve next year was not only reflected in the trade itself, but also in Silvagni when asked about the prospect of giving up an early pick next year. 

"What happens if we finish higher than them?" he asked, after being quizzed on the potential gap between the two clubs' picks.

The Blues have completed what they believe was 'phase one' of the club's long-awaited rebuild. Three years, three drafts. Now, it's onto 'phase two'. 

A NAB AFL Trade Period that saw the club secure the likes of Mitch McGovern, Alex Fasolo, Will Setterfield and Nic Newman was all part of a plan to recruit more mature-aged talent.

Patrick Cripps, Sam Docherty and Charlie Curnow – among others – are all entering their prime, while the newly-minted pick No.1 Sam Walsh will add to a developing midfield group.

Brendon Bolton and co. are cautiously optimistic of a rise up the ladder next season.

Realistically, the Blues are still likely to finish below the Crows in 2019. They wouldn't want to finish much more than six-to-eight spots back on their new rivals.

But for a club that rated Stocker highly, the deal looks a risk worth taking.

Having missed the NAB AFL Under 18s Championships with a broken jaw, Stocker enjoyed an impressive end to the TAC Cup season with the Dragons. He averaged 22 disposals and five clearances per game, winning the Morrish Medal for best player in the competition.

The Blues rate Lam Stocker highly. Picture: AFL Photos

He's also a leader, praised for his calm demeanour and his articulate persona.

"We rated him very highly," Silvagni said afterwards.

"We think he's highly competitive, he's a bull, he's got speed, he uses the ball very well and he can get out of stoppages. Plus, he can play in a number of roles.

"It was something we'd spoken to the Crows about maybe three or four days ago. It didn't just happen on the run on the night. We'd had discussions leading into the draft.

"When he started to spill out, we started to make contact at about pick No.13 or 14. Then we were able to do the deal."

In addition to potentially putting an early pick on the line in order to get the deal done, the trade will also limit Carlton's ability to make a move for a host of out-of-contract players set to hit the market in 2019 – Greater Western Sydney star Josh Kelly being among them.

But if Stocker and a host of other young can help the Blues rise up the ranks quickly next year, then the move might be justified for Silvagni and the club's recruiters.

THE HYPOTHETICAL – IF BOTH SIDES FINISH IN THE SAME SPOT NEXT YEAR

Carlton gets: 2018 Pick No.19 (948 DVI points) + 2019 Pick No.7 (1644 DVI points) = 2592 DVI points

Adelaide gets: 2019 Pick No.1 (3000 DVI points) = 3000 DVI points