NOTHING gets footy fans excited quite like the Trade Period.
But in the wake of the COVID-19 shutdown, how will it work this season?
AFL.com.au reporter Riley Beveridge breaks down the latest trade news to 'keep things simple' for you, analysing how and when the player movement period could unfold.
ARE CLUBS ABLE TO RE-SIGN THEIR STARS?
Not just yet. A blanket ban has been placed on AFL clubs re-signing players as the League waits on an updated Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that has been forced by the financial implications of the COVID-19 suspension period. Unknown factors like whether the salary cap will be reduced, as well as whether list sizes will be cut, will have implications on the new CBA. Some players have spoken about what the pitfalls of the coronavirus crisis will mean to their contract situation, such as Collingwood star Darcy Moore. The Pies defender said last month that a long-term deal might not be feasible in the aftermath of the shutdown period. Clubs have also privately resigned themselves to the fact deals will have to be delayed, and star players will remain uncontracted for longer, due to the situation.
WHEN CAN A PLAYER RE-SIGN?
It has not yet been decided. Speaking last week, the AFL's football operations manager Steve Hocking batted away questions regarding contracts and when players could re-sign. But it wasn't without reason. The AFL's focus has been on the 'return to play' phase of its recovery from the coronavirus crisis and it is yet to turn its attentions to matters that can be dealt with further down the line. These include the trade and draft period, as well as finals and the Grand Final start time. Clubs, players and player managers remain in the dark as to when they can finalise negotiations regarding contract extensions, without an inkling as to when deals can be signed again.
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WHO ARE THE BIG NAMES WAITING TO SIGN?
A host of star players headline the AFL's free agency list this year. Coleman Medal winner Jeremy Cameron, fellow Giants stars Zac Williams and Aidan Corr, Essendon spearhead Joe Daniher, former Melbourne skipper Jack Viney and Adelaide jet Brad Crouch are all restricted free agents who will have their futures remain up in the air for some time. Collingwood duo Darcy Moore and Jordan De Goey and North Melbourne forward Ben Brown are also among the star players who aren't free agents, but who remain uncontracted. All three have attracted the interest of rival AFL clubs.
WHEN WILL THE TRADE PERIOD ARRIVE?
Traditionally, the Trade Period arrives two weeks after the Grand Final (normally mid-October). However, with this year's Grand Final not currently slated to fall until October 24 due to the game's suspension period – and with the date subject to change, given the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic – the Trade Period is almost certain to be pushed back significantly. While exact dates haven't been locked in, tentatively we can expect the player movement period to fall sometime in November. However, other factors such as the renegotiated CBA and the timing of the AFL Draft, will have an impact on when it will be held.
HOW CAN FRINGE PLAYERS PROVE THEMSELVES?
Fringe players, particularly those out of contract, are among those feeling the most uncertain in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The AFL's ruling that players who aren't in the best 22 for their teams cannot participate in state leagues like the VFL, SANFL, NEAFL and WAFL has meant the League has been forced to find other ways of ensuring they can compete for spots in their senior sides. Earlier this week, the AFL announced that clubs can hold scratch matches for those players against other teams currently in the same state, so long as they are held in AFL-approved venues. Clubs can mutually agree upon the structure of that particular match or match simulation session.