This time last year, the Brisbane Lions were on the nose.
Five talented youngsters, widely thought to be the future of the Lions, walked out the door and it was a terrible look for the club.
Elliot Yeo, Patrick Karnezis, Sam Docherty, Jared Polec and Billy Longer all had their reasons for wanting to return to their home states and when examined on an individual basis, there were compelling reasons for each to depart the club.
Multiply that by five, however, and the Lions were painted as a club with a poor development program, where youngsters were drafted from all over Australia were pretty much left to fend for themselves.
Fast forward a year, and the environment at the Gabba could not be better. Two of the biggest names of the NAB AFL Trade Period, Dayne Beams and Allen Christensen, are Brisbane-bound. And the man to thank for the transformation of the Lions is coach Justin Leppitsch.
Lions get their man: Beams heads north
Peter Schwab joined the Lions shortly after last year's mass exodus, initially as list manager before moving on to manage all matters to do with the list and talent acquisition. And while Greg Swann's appointment as chief executive in July brought some much-needed gravitas to the Lions (it was he who declared the Lions were open for business with a large hole in the salary cap), Leppitsch has changed the culture.
"Clearly the coach had to take a lot of the credit for creating the environment and the way he's managed it. It has been exceptional," Schwab said in an interview last week shortly after the Beams deal was consummated.
"He came here with a clear direction about not just the game-plan but the way the football area of the club should operate.
"He has shown he can coach from a tactical and directional perspective, but he also has a good manner and a good way of managing people.”
Star Cat now a Brisbane Lion
Schwab believes the Lions copped a bad rap from the defections at the end of 2013. To lose five in one hit was almost the perfect storm, and in his view reflected unfairly on a number of proven football people who have work for the Lions.
"The perception out there was that the club was doing a lot wrong, but people like Dean Warren (general manager of football), Brett Burton (high performance manager) and Manny Lynch (head of welfare and culture) are great people who have been doing a good job for a long time now."
There was plenty of introspection at the Lions in the wash-up of last year's departures.
"You don't want that happening every year," Schwab admitted, "so we have worked hard to create an environment that people coming in here will enjoy."
Winners and losers: All the major talking points from the trade period
Bringing in Beams and Christensen, two Queensland Academy selections and a father-son pick leaves the Lions out of next month's NAB AFL Draft until pick 67.
Their midfield would now appear sorted, with Beams, Christensen, Daniel Rich (returning from an ACL injury), Tom Rockliff, Dayne Zorko, Josh Green and Jack Redden forming a group as deep and talented as any in the competition.
The question now is, who will play deep forward to capitalise on all this run and carry?
"You can't fix all the perceived problems with your structure in one off-season," Schwab said.
If the Lions midfield in 2015 turns out to be as good as advertised, the club should have no troubles attracting decent key position players this time next year.
Bulldogs' bold move - will it be worth it?
The Tom Boyd-Ryan Griffen deal fascinated for so many reasons, not the least of which was the establishment of a genuine Western Bulldogs diaspora at GWS with Leon Cameron as coach, Callan Ward as skipper and now, Ryan Griffen as a key midfielder.
On the surface, the Giants made out like bandits, securing Griffen (with the Dogs picking up a sizeable percentage of his contract) and pick No.6, with the Bulldogs picking up a nine-game forward in return.
It was a huge play for the Bulldogs to make, particularly as they are currently without a captain and a coach. But it was also a necessary move. When was the last time the Bulldogs made the sort of move that left football people's mouths agape?
History teaches us the Bulldogs are a club that has traditionally let its star players walk away. Barry Round, Bernie Quinlan and Brian Wilson left the club before they won their Brownlow Medals. Kelvin Templeton, Gary Dempsey and Brad Hardie finished their careers with other clubs after winning Brownlow Medals in the red, white and blue. Adam Cooney will now do the same.
But the bigger concern for the Western Bulldogs over the years has been this: since Simon Beasley retired at the end of 1988, they have had just one key forward kick more than 80 goals in a season – Barry Hall in 2010.
Hall came to the club as the last roll of the dice for a club that had lost two preliminary finals, in part because it lacked a proven goalkicker. The preliminary final years under Terry Wallace in 1997 and 1998 were the same - Simon Minton-Connell (43 goals in 1997) and Paul Hudson (61 goals in 1988) were the leading goalkickers.
Since Beasley's retirement, the leading goalkicker for the Western Bulldogs has averaged 50 goals a year. By contrast, the leading goalkickers for the premiership teams have averaged 71 goals, so you can hardly blame the club for making a once-in-a-generation play for an emerging key-position star.
It was a bold and brassy move by the club, and absolutely one that needed to be made. But get back to me in five years to check whether it was the right one.
Plenty on the line in 2015 for GWS
The Giants will be among the most interesting clubs next year. Win eight to 10 games and the swag of young players soon to be out of contract - including Dylan Shiel, Jeremy Cameron, Will Hoskin-Elliott, Matt Buntine and Adam Treloar - will likely be convinced to commit to the club for the long-term.
Another four-win season, however, and the trickle of players returning home will become a flood, and having allowed Boyd to depart after just 12 months there won't be much chief executive David Matthews and coach Leon Cameron will be able to say to stop them.
On paper, the Giants give the impression of a team that can win those eight to 10 games - sound midfield, decent forward targets and a better backline. But they'll need a few wins early to keep the wolves at bay. The Giants are one team waiting eagerly for the release of the 2015 fixture later next week.
Will the real Carlton insignia please step forward?
I love the exercise on the Carlton website to choose which monogram Carlton will wear on its jumper going forward. Well done to the Blues for giving their supporters the opportunity to determine an important aspect to their football club for the future.
The choice is the "bold white monogram on a mass of dark navy" (as described on the special website created for the exercise) which was used between 1927 and 1997, and the more intertwined version that debuted in 1998 when the club entered into an arrangement with Nike, and which more or less still exists today.
If you go to the website, Troy Menzel is modelling the newer monogram and Marc Murphy the older.
Not that I'm a particular fan of the old, dark navy Blues, but surely the 1927-1997 logo is the direction the Blues need to head down.
This was how the Blues looked when they were at their most fearsome and arrogant best. It was the jumper worn by John Nicholls and Alex Jesaulenko at their rampaging best. Ted Hopkins slew Collingwood in the 1970 Grand Final in that jumper; so too did Wayne Harmes nine years later.
The newer logo might appear sleeker and more modern, but the problem for the Blues is that they've largely been no good during that time. The best of Carlton came in that older, bolder jumper and the time has come for that football club, in this particular instance, to roll back the years.