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.
FREO FORWARD SPARKS INTRIGUE
RORY Lobb's future is clouded with rivals believing the Fremantle forward is open-minded about a move to a third AFL club.
The 28-year-old Docker is contracted for another two years at Fremantle after landing from Greater Western Sydney on a five-year deal at the end of 2018.
However, opposition clubs are of the view he could assess his options at the end of the season, with Lobb having ties to Victoria.
Lobb is on a deal worth around $700,000 a year for the next two seasons through to the end of 2023.
The financial element of any club making a move on Lobb is likely to be a factor in their considerations given many salary caps have been stretched this season and a significant number of players around the competition have been asked to defer payments due to cuts imposed by the AFL last year.
He has kicked 39 goals from 43 games with Fremantle since joining the club after five seasons with the Giants, where he was drafted at the end of 2013 and played 74 games, including seven finals.
The Dockers recently landed an important contract extension for Sean Darcy, who has emerged as the best young ruckman in the game, but are waiting on an answer from Adam Cerra, who has had a four-year contract offer in front of him for some months.
TRADE HUB All the latest player movement news
Cerra, who was drafted at No.5 in 2017, is weighing a move back to his home state Victoria and said in recent days he would make a call at the end of the season.
Veteran David Mundy has been in brilliant form and looks likely to delay retirement for another season, while Darcy Tucker and Nathan Wilson are also among the Dockers without deals for 2022. – Callum Twomey
CATS MOVE TO LOCK AWAY RISING TALL PROSPECT
RIVAL clubs expect Esava Ratugolea to stay at Geelong and knock back interest elsewhere after recently opening talks on a new deal with the Cats.
The 22-year-old had been targeted by clubs keen on his upside as a forward-ruck option with his contract due to expire at season's end.
Greater Western Sydney last year asked about his availability while under contract as part of the deal to send Jeremy Cameron to the Cats but were told he was a required player at GMHBA Stadium.
Now into his fifth year at the Cats, a three-year deal would take Ratugolea into free agency.
Ratugolea is a favourite of coach Chris Scott's and won a recall to the senior side for the Grand Final re-match against Richmond in round eight after limited preparation in the VFL following a leg fracture.
He played seven matches straight in a ruck combination with Mark Blicavs before being rested last week, with out-of-contract ruckman Rhys Stanley taking his spot in the middle.
The Cats have long debated whether Ratugolea's future is as a forward or ruckman and will this week have to decide whether he is recalled for Stanley or replace the injured Cameron in attack.
Ratugolea is one of 18 players at the Cats without a deal for next season, including skipper and unrestricted free agent Joel Selwood, who is poised to sign a one-year deal, and reigning best and fairest Cam Guthrie who has opened talks on an extension.
Gryan Miers is in protracted talks for a multi-year deal, while Gary Rohan, Quinton Narkle, Lachie Henderson, Brad Close and Charlie Constable are among others unsigned. – Mitch Cleary
REWARD FOR RELIABLE SUN
FORWARD Nick Holman has been taken off this year's list of free agents after reaching a trigger to extend his stay at Gold Coast into 2022.
The 26-year-old, who was due to fall out of contract, qualified under the 'free agency for life' clause having previously been delisted from Carlton in 2015 after nine games for the Blues.
However, Holman has missed just one game this year through concussion and done enough to hit a clause in his contract to win a fifth year at the Suns.
After being cut by the Blues, Holman played two seasons for Central District in the SANFL before winning a second chance via the Rookie Draft at the end of 2017.
He earned a new two-year deal at the end of 2019 and has now played 60 games for the Suns.
The Suns are also closing in on a new deal for free agent Sean Lemmens and have opened talks to extend 2019 first-round draft pick Sam Flanders. – Mitch Cleary
BRISBANE'S PICKS UP FOR GRABS
BRISBANE will consider packaging its two first-round picks at this year's NAB AFL Draft to move up the order as it works out its plan of attack with its strong hand of selections.
The Lions last year accrued Melbourne's future first-round pick as part of a swap during the 2020 trade period, meaning Brisbane currently holds picks No.16 and 17 in this year's pool.
Recruiting manager Stephen Conole said the Lions would look at their options with the pair of picks, including combining them to try and secure a prized earlier choice.
"No doubt. We're really open to anything at this stage of the year. People's thoughts will be very fluid until right near the end of the year this year so I think there'll be a lot of work between recruiters and list managers," Conole told the Road to the Draft podcast.
"It's going to be quite hectic as those last games tick over and it runs into the National Combine it's going to be a really busy and exciting period of the year for everyone."
With the NAB AFL Under-19 Championships moved to the back half of the season, Conole expected views of the draft to be in flux until later this year than previous campaigns.
The Lions have been active in the trade and free agency space in the past four years, grabbing top-liners Charlie Cameron (2017), Lachie Neale (2018) and Joe Daniher (2020) from rivals, and Conole said they would continue to weigh up holding their early picks with using them to lure players.
CAL TWOMEY'S PHANTOM FORM GUIDE Best draft prospects ranked
"We've managed that really well over the last few years. If there's been a specific trade we've had no hesitation in doing it and obviously if we keep the picks then we'll certainly use them come draft time," he said.
"Those first four or five picks [at the start of the draft] are super important but I think it will be pretty open after that. We'll see how the season unfolds and you never really know who is going to be there.
"If there's a need that we've got and there's opening [with a trade] I don't think we'd hesitate in getting involved in that, but if not we're really confident there's enough talent in this year's draft at the end of November and select a couple of really nice players." – Callum Twomey
MELBOURNE'S BID FOR A BOMBER
FEW AT Melbourne would have been surprised with Essendon wingman Brayden Ham's excellent first half against the Demons two weeks ago.
Ham collected 15 disposals before the main break in what was one of the young Bomber's best patches of his season. And he could easily have been playing for the Dees.
Melbourne targeted Ham in last year's Trade Period when the Essendon wingman remained out of contract.
A bigger deal was on the table from the Dees but he stayed put at Tullamarine on a one-year contract, which was extended by another year earlier this season to tie him to the club until the end of 2022.
Ham, whose brother Charlie was selected by North Melbourne in the mid-season rookie draft, has played every game for the Bombers this year although two of those have been as the unused medical substitute.
The hard-running left footer has had an impressive season on the wing, including a three-goal game against Richmond in round 12 and his 20-disposal outing against Melbourne. – Callum Twomey