FREMANTLE will insist on at least a top-10 pick in the NAB AFL Draft in exchange for young gun Adam Cerra as it comes to terms with losing another midfielder with elite talent.
But the Dockers must also find a way to replace Cerra in a way that keeps their anticipated rise up the ladder on track after six seasons outside finals.
Cerra was recruited with pick No.5 in the 2017 draft and has proven himself to be worthy of that high-end selection since grasping his midfield opportunities under Justin Longmuir in the past two seasons.
The Dockers will therefore be justified in pushing for a pick similar in value as a minimum, given the 21-year-old's four years of development and equal third placing in last year's best and fairest.
Cerra represents a proven commodity in this year's Continental Tyres AFL Trade Period, which will precede a draft full of unknowns, given the limited underage football played in the past two seasons.
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He is a player the Dockers rated highly enough to present him with a four-year deal worth in the range of $750,000 a season back in March, with suitors expected to table similar offers.
The Blues shape as the most willing and able club to enter trade negotiations for Cerra but may be asked to place more than just their pick No.6 – which will slide to No.8 after father-son bids – on the table.
A key member of the Dockers' engine room this season, Cerra played 18 games and averaged 23.1 disposals this season, ranking No.1 at the club and 13th in the AFL for average inside 50s (5.0 a game).
He has built a reputation over the past two seasons as one of the club's most reliable and damaging ball-users forward of centre and led the team for average goal assists in 2021.
The Dockers have been braced for Cerra's decision for some time now and were hopeful but realistic about their dwindling chances as recently as Monday.
They were content as the season came to a close, however, that they could not have done more to sell their vision for the future to the Eastern Ranges product, confident that Cerra believed in the direction of the club.
They were also accepting of the midfielder's reasons for leaving, knowing the pull of family was strong and he had resisted meeting with any rivals while still engaged in the Dockers' season.
So what does Cerra's exit mean for the club's immediate future on-field?
The Dockers have enjoyed a successful period of drafting, but they have suffered setbacks concurrently at the trade table and lost elite talent in two of the past three years.
While Andrew Brayshaw arrived after a shrewd stand-off with Gold Coast that saw the club land pick No.2 in exchange for Lachie Weller, the Trade Period has seen also seen Lachie Neale (Brisbane), Bradley Hill (St Kilda) and Ed Langdon (Melbourne) seek new homes.
Now Cerra is joining them, leaving a hole in the midfield and no obvious replacement. How successful the Dockers are in turning his exit into an opportunity to improve their list will have a big say in when their finals drought ends.