Every Thursday AFL.com.au presents Inside Trading, with breaking news and the best analysis of the player movement landscape covering contracts, trades, free agents, the NAB AFL Draft and industry insights.
HAWKS' HUGE SALARY CAP KITTY
THE RETIREMENTS of former No.1 draft picks Jon Patton and Tom Scully have given Hawthorn up to $1 million of extra salary cap room split over the next two seasons that could help fast-track the club's rebuild.
And industry figures believe the Hawks – along with North Melbourne and Essendon – sit among the top handful of clubs for salary cap space this year which has only been further boosted by their high-profile retirees.
Patton is understood to have reached a small settlement with the Hawks over the remaining two years of his contract valued at an estimated $300,000 per season.
The ex-Giant, who called time on his career in April after apologising to women for inappropriate behaviour, left GWS at the end of 2019 with one year remaining on a contract.
However, with the lure of extending his AFL career, Patton smoothed out the deal at Waverley Park and accepted a three-year offer until the end of 2022.
Scully walked away from the game in February, three months into the final year of his three-year deal with the Hawks. The 29-year-old, who was drafted to Melbourne in 2009, departed the Giants on a three-year deal at the end of 2018 after a serious ankle injury.
While the Giants received only a future fourth-round pick in return, it was able to offload Scully's three-year contract valued at approximately $600,000 per season to the Hawks from its own bulging salary cap.
Like Richmond after Alex Rance's premature retirement ahead of 2020, Hawthorn will be able to redistribute part of the surplus cash left for 2021 to other Hawks players.
This would allow players such as James Worpel (2023 contract), Jaeger O'Meara (2023) or James Sicily (2022) to restructure deals and open up room for the Hawks for future dealings to target opposition stars. Patton's remaining money for 2022 will simply come off the salary cap for next season.
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Following the defection of head of football Graham Wright to Collingwood in January, recruiter Mark McKenzie has been elevated to the role as Hawthorn list manager. Key Hawks out of contract this year include Blake Hardwick, Tim O'Brien and Harry Morrison, while Changkuoth Jiath has a trigger for 2022.
Scully's retirement opened up a spot for the Hawks for the Pre-Season Supplemental Period (SSP) where they opted to place Box Hill midfielder Lachie Bramble on their AFL list.
Patton's departure will leave the Hawks with the choice of taking a player in the Mid-Season Rookie Draft on June 2 – currently placed at No.3 as per the reverse ladder order behind North Melbourne and Collingwood. – Mitch Cleary
IN-FORM BOMBER NEARS CONTRACT TRIGGER
JAYDEN Laverde's emergence as a defender has been one of the success stories of the first half of Essendon's season and the remodelled Bomber is nearing a contract trigger to stick with the club in 2022.
Laverde was left in contract limbo at the end of last season but agreed to a one-year deal that carried a games trigger to extend his time at Essendon through to the end of 2022.
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Having been selected in every game so far this season, the 25-year-old is heading towards reaching the clause that will activate another season at Tullamarine.
Coach Ben Rutten flagged the move to defence to Laverde at the end of last season and he is close to Essendon's most improved player, impressing with his marking, contested work and shutdown jobs as a mobile option.
Laverde, who was pick No.20 in the 2014 NAB AFL Draft, spent the first six years of his career as a medium forward but suffered many injury concerns. He was exceptional in the Bombers' Anzac Day win over Collingwood with 21 disposals and a goal. – Callum Twomey
PORT FREE AGENT KEEN TO FINISH AT ALBERTON
OUT-OF-CONTRACT Port Adelaide veteran Hamish Hartlett says he wants to finish his career at the club as he hits free agency this season.
Hartlett, who will feature for the Power in Saturday night's Showdown against Adelaide, signed a long-term deal in 2015 that expires at the end of this season. He remains an important member of the club's push for a premiership this season and said that discussions have started on a new deal.
"I believe the club is in communications with my management," Hartlett told AFL.com.au.
"I'm probably not the highest priority being 30 and more of a role player these days rather than what I was doing a few years ago in the midfield but hopefully things can get sorted out and I can stick around for another year or two, we'll wait and see.
"I'm just happy to be just doing what I'm doing."
Hartlett and Power champion Robbie Gray are among the Power's key players unsigned beyond this season, with experienced pair Tom Rockliff and Steven Motlop, who both crossed to the Power under free agency, also qualifying as free agents again this season. – Callum Twomey
TWO STANDOUTS BUT WHO IS NO.3?
IF THE EARLY part of this year's draft season has proven anything, it is that Nick Daicos and Jason Horne sit as the leading two talents in the 2021 crop. But the next group are far more difficult to place in a period of the season where scouts and players are usually preparing for the mid-year championships to begin.
Daicos, the Collingwood father-son, is considered the leading player in this year's pool and recruiters largely see Horne, who has been playing at senior level in the SANFL for South Adelaide since last year, as the other No.1 contender at this stage.
Horne, a tough, high-marking midfielder who also kicks goals, has also been selected in the SANFL state side squad and idolises Freo superstar Nat Fyfe.
Beyond that star pair, however, recruiters are split on who sits within the next group of prospects after an interrupted start to the year and with such a large portion of the draft pool impacted by COVID-19's shutdown of the NAB League season.
Two players who have catapulted themselves into the mix are marking centre-half back Josh Gibcus and long-kicking wingman Finn Callaghan. Gibcus is one of the leading talls in the group and Callaghan's start to the season has put him on the radar as an early selection.
Josh Rachele's talent as a classy small forward will make clubs consider him inside the top-10, as will Josh Sinn's line-breaking run out of defence and Ben Hobbs' inside power. Midfielders Matthew Johnson, Matthew Roberts and Tyler Sonsie have also shown their AFL traits.
With a new competition structure this season – Victoria's NAB League campaign has been put on hold for a month and the mid-year NAB AFL Under-19 Championships will largely now be played at the end of the season – as well as the unknown of their under-17s season being COVID-hit, recruiters are aware that it is going to take longer than usual for the top end of the draft group to fall into place. – Callum Twomey