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Sign 'em up: Your club's most important off-contract player

Josh Kelly will again be the target of several Victorian clubs in 2019 as he ponders his future - AFL,Adelaide Crows,Brisbane Lions,Carlton Blues,Collingwood Magpies,Essendon Bombers,Fremantle Dockers,Geelong Cats,Gold Coast Suns,GWS Giants,Hawthorn Hawks,Melbourne Demons,North Melbourne Kangaroos,Port Adelaide Power,Richmond Tigers,St Kilda Saints,Sydney Swans,West Coast Eagles,Western Bulldogs,News
Josh Kelly will again be the target of several Victorian clubs in 2019 as he ponders his future

WHO IS the out-of-contract player your club most needs to re-sign?

AFL.com.au has scoured each club's 2019 uncontracted list, including free agents, and has settled on the player who shapes as their team's most important re-signing.

That person might not necessarily be the best player at his club set to come off contract at the end of next season, but has made our list on the basis of other key factors, such as his importance to his club's on-field structure, or potential to develop into a long-term star.

Either way, securing each of these players beyond 2019 would be a coup for their clubs.

Hugh Greenwood

The former basketballer has quickly established himself as an important member of the Crows since making his debut in round nine, 2017, finishing fifth in the Crows' best and fairest award this year. At 191cm, Greenwood is a remarkably versatile player. Dangerous in the air – he finished second at Adelaide for contested marks in 2018 – and provides a strong target in attack, kicking 16 goals this season. He also thrives in the thick of things at stoppages, finishing first at the Crows for tackles, second for clearances and fourth for centre clearances. With just 37 games to his name, the Tasmanian still has significant scope for improvement, and is happy to wait before starting contract talks with the Crows. - Nick Bowen

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Stefan Martin

The Victorian has been linked to clubs in his home state in recent trade periods, but remains too valuable to the Lions for them to let him go. Over the past four seasons, he has finished equal first, third (twice) and fourth in Brisbane's best and fairest award, while he remains the Lions' clear No.1 ruckman despite Oscar McInerney's impressive development in 2018. At 32, Martin also remains remarkably durable, having missed just two games since round 16, 2015. The Lions' young list has so much potential the veteran can confidently eye a finals debut before he hangs up the boots. But if they're to continue their march up the ladder, the Lions can't afford to lose Martin, especially after former captain Dayne Beams' departure to Collingwood in this year's NAB AFL Trade Period. - NB

Matthew Kreuzer (free agent)

Injury and health issues restricted the ruckman to just 12 games in 2018 and he was sorely missed by the Blues. Although Matthew Lobbe gives Carlton a readymade ruck stand-in and Andrew Phillips is a capable performer when fit, Kreuzer remains the heartbeat of the Blues' midfield with his relentless work ethic. At 200cm, the 29-year-old is relatively short for a ruckman by today's standards, but competes hard in ruck contests and comes into his own when the ball hits the ground – he finished third at Carlton for average clearances (3.8 a game) in 2018. As the Blues attempt to claw their way up the ladder over the next few years, they will need to lean heavily on Kreuzer's experience and leadership. When he was last out of contract in 2017 he did not re-sign until the end of the season, and a new deal is also likely to take some time. - NB

Matthew Kreuzer remains a key part of Carlton's midfield despite playing just 12 games in 2018. Picture: AFL Photos

Taylor Adams

A future captain of the Pies, Adams' long-term commitment is understood to be nearing completion after another impressive season in 2018. Having matured considerably in his five years since crossing from GWS, Adams has proven he can stand up in big games with 36 and 31 disposals respectively in this year's preliminary final and Grand Final. With the Pies' midfield set to be jam-packed in 2019, he has proven his flexibility with stints across half-back and will give Nathan Buckley options. Adams will lead the Pies' midfield well into the future, given Scott Pendlebury, Steele Sidebottom and Dayne Beams are all at least two years his senior. - Mitch Cleary

FUTURE PICKS Who you should barrack against in 2019

Aaron Francis

After unsuccessfully requesting a trade at the end of 2017 and then taking personal leave from the club early in 2018, Francis now sees his future at Essendon, which is great news for the Dons. The South Australian was a revelation when he finally returned to the Bombers' senior team in round 19. Stationed primarily in defence, Francis, 193cm, proved a roadblock for opposition teams with his outstanding overhead marking. He took a remarkable 10 contested marks over the final two rounds – four against Richmond in round 22 and six against Port Adelaide the following week – and knows instinctively when to zone off to intercept opposition attacks. There was never any doubting the raw talent of 2015's No.6 draft pick, but now he appears ready to deliver on a consistent basis. The Bombers can call on his talents next year but need to ensure he's still delivering for them in 2020 and beyond. - NB

Ed Langdon

Victorian clubs circled in this year's NAB AFL Trade Period and will come harder the longer the former Sandringham Dragon remains unsigned. After a career-best year averaging 22.4 disposals, Langdon bolted into fourth in the best and fairest behind Lachie Neale, David Mundy and Nat Fyfe. Following the departure of Neale, he now sits arguably in the top three most important midfielders at the club with his run and carry his major asset. With brother Tom knocking back the opportunity to head west and stay a Pie, could Ed be tempted to move home? His outside dash would command big money on the open market and could be a target for those clubs who miss out on Giant Josh Kelly. - MC

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Brandan Parfitt

List boss Stephen Wells will be keen to snap up the signature of Parfitt, one of the Cats' most promising emerging midfielders, before the youngster explodes in 2019. Has increased his running power this pre-season and looks set to push for more midfield time after an honest 2018 playing mostly as a half-forward. One of the most composed young players in the game through traffic, Parfitt is entering his third season at the Cats. With midfielders Gary Ablett, Joel and Scott Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield all 29 or older next season, the rise of Parfitt and his fellow young teammates is crucial to Geelong not falling down the ladder. - MC

Jack Martin

The Suns have 12 months to convince Martin that he doesn't want out a second time around. After pushing for a release to Essendon in this year's NAB AFL Trade Period, the former junior prodigy fronts up to the Suns with plenty to prove next year. Has barely scraped the surface of his potential and, in a year when he turns 23, is paramount to Gold Coast's future endeavours. Having already lost Jaeger O'Meara, Dion Prestia and Josh Caddy from the club's midfield, the Suns can ill afford to have Martin walk out. - MC

If Jack Martin fulfils his potential, the Suns will be far better for it. Picture: AFL Photos

Josh Kelly

The smooth-moving midfielder will be the No.1 recruiting target for most Victorian clubs next year and, as he did when last out of contract in 2017, will attract long-term offers worth more than $1 million a season. The Giants put themselves in a reasonable position to compete with rival suitors when they shed more than $1.5 million in player salaries by trading Dylan Shiel, Rory Lobb, Tom Scully and Will Setterfield this year. GWS faces a busy 2019 on the contract front, with vice-captain Stephen Coniglio, Nick Haynes and Adam Tomlinson entering new free agency, and talented youngsters Jacob Hopper and Harry Himmelberg also set to come out of contract. But as talented as these players are, Kelly is better. The Victorian came close to returning home at the end of 2017 and is likely to again take time to decide his future. - NB

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Jaeger O'Meara

Alongside 2018 Brownlow medallist Tom Mitchell, O'Meara represents the future of the Hawks' midfield. This year, the 2013 NAB Rising Star finally got on top of the chronic knee problems that had cruelled him since he ruptured his right patella tendon early in 2015, playing 21 of a possible 24 games. Once out on the park on a consistent basis, O'Meara quickly underlined his worth. He finished second at the Hawks for possessions (24 a game) and clearances (4.9), third for tackles (5.4), and kicked 16 goals to earn fifth spot in the club's best and fairest award and a career-high 13 Brownlow Medal votes. When the 24-year-old chose Hawthorn over a host of rival Victorian suitors after leaving Gold Coast at the end of 2016, his long-term future appeared to lie at Waverley. Nothing has changed since then to alter his and the Hawks' commitment to each other, so a new deal should be a formality. - NB

Jaeger O'Meara finally shrugged off his knee problems to star in Hawthorn's midfield. Picture: AFL Photos

Sam Weideman

The Demons underlined their faith in the 21-year-old spearhead when they orchestrated Jesse Hogan's move to Fremantle in this year's Trade Period. With Hogan sidelined with injury, Weideman showcased his enormous potential in the 2018 finals series, starring with three goals in the elimination final win over Geelong and backing that up with a solid performance in the semi-final victory over Hawthorn. At 195cm and 97kg, Weideman is an imposing presence and has markedly improved his endurance. He shapes as a key player for the next decade. More immediately, the Demons are banking on him and fellow tall Tom McDonald providing the spine in attack that can break the club's long premiership drought. It's understood Weideman will focus on making a strong start to the 2019 season before considering his future. - NB

 

Todd Goldstein (free agent)

The ruckman appeared rejuvenated this year after a tough couple of seasons on and off the field. Goldstein almost singlehandedly carried North's ruck division in 2018 and was nearly back to his 2015 All Australian form, recording his first top-10 finish – seventh – in the Roos' best and fairest award since winning the Syd Barker Medal in 2015. Following fellow ruckman Braydon Preuss' departure to Melbourne in this year's Trade Period, Goldstein becomes an even more valuable commodity at Arden St. The Kangaroos are well placed to play finals over the next few years after bolstering their list with experienced recruits Jared Polec, Aaron Hall, Dom Tyson and Jasper Pittard, but it's hard to see them doing so without Goldstein. - NB

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Paddy Ryder

The 2017 All Australian turns 31 in March and battled injury niggles for much of 2018. Some could also argue Port's snaring of West Coast big man Scott Lycett in this year's free agency period lessens its reliance on Ryder. However, the former Bomber remains one of the few ruckmen in the competition capable of providing a dangerous target while resting in attack, and his partnership with Lycett shapes as a genuine weapon for the Power as they bid to rebound from a disappointing 2018. Port's list is in an interesting position after it farewelled Chad Wingard, Jared Polec, Jasper Pittard and Jack Hombsch during the trade period and invested in elite youngsters Connor Rozee, Zak Butters and Xavier Duursma at the NAB AFL Draft. But the Power have always been a club that targets immediate success and Ryder should have good football left in him beyond 2019. - NB

Veteran ruckman Paddy Ryder is still vital to Port, whether up forward or in the middle. Picture: AFL Photos

David Astbury (free agent)

While Alex Rance gets the headlines in defence, Astbury is the glue that keeps the backline together. Without the unsung backman, Rance and Dylan Grimes would be asked to tackle the competition's best key forwards and lose their attacking drive. Rance, Trent Cotchin and Jack Riewoldt have all re-shaped their contracts to fit Tom Lynch in the cap this year, leaving Astbury as one of only a handful of premiership players without a deal beyond 2019. While key tall Ryan Garthwaite is rising through the ranks, Astbury's commitment will be important to keep the Tigers in the flag hunt. - MC

Jade Gresham

The Saints need him on-field as much as they do off it. Clearly coach Alan Richardson's most attacking weapon, the small forward is now their most marketable young player. Can break the lines, has the ability to push into the midfield and knows where the goals are, as proven with his match-winner against Gold Coast in round 13. The Saints have plenty of room left in the salary cap, and if they miss Josh Kelly again, Gresham will be inclined to ask for a pay rise on the deal he signed in December 2016. The type of player who sells memberships with his flair in the front half. - MC

 

Callum Sinclair

Has gone from inconsistent bit-part player to one of the competition's best ruckmen. While carrying the ruck load in 2018, his ability to go forward will be even more important next year as fellow big man Sam Naismith returns from a year ruined by a ruptured ACL. Sinclair played all 23 games this year after a number of seasons plagued by injuries and indifferent form to become one of John Longmire's most reliable players. With a ruck shortage across the competition due to retirements and injury, rival clubs will be monitoring Sinclair's contract status closely. - MC

Brad Sheppard (free agent)

Was enjoying a career-best season before a serious hamstring injury sustained in the preliminary final confined him to the grandstand for the Eagles' flag. With Jeremy McGovern and Tom Barrass the fliers in defence, Sheppard provides stability, able to play on smalls or talls. The man assigned to the dangerous Jordan De Goey in the preliminary final, Sheppard is Adam Simpson's go-to man for all the big jobs. While the West Australian should have no reason to leave, he will want to be remunerated well for what should be his last big contract as a 27-year-old. - MC

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Lachie Hunter

Now that superstar Marcus Bontempelli has been secured, all of the Dogs' energies will be focused on Hunter's future at the club. While it is understood he is closing on a fresh long-term deal, the 2018 best and fairest will be demanding a big increase on the last deal he signed early in the flag year of 2016. One of eight premiership players yet to have re-committed beyond 2019. Along with Port Adelaide veteran Justin Westhoff, Hunter is the only reigning club champion in the competition set to fall out of contract. - MC