IT IS unclear where Kevin Sheedy was sitting as he watched the final quarter of the 1997 Toyota AFL Grand Final play out.

But as the sharpest mind in the game at the time, it would not have been lost on the Essendon coaching legend that he helped mastermind the trade that helped Adelaide win its first AFL premiership.

It actually took place before the start of the season before when Sheedy bucked conventional thinking that AFL trading had to involve one team attempting to screw over the other.

The Bombers, Crows and Hawthorn came together for a trade that turned out to be a clear win for each of them. Ruckman Paul Salmon crossed from the Bombers to the Hawks and ended up making that club's Team of the Century. Hawk Paul Barnard and Crow Sean Wellman ended up at Windy Hill and would play in that club's barnstorming 2000 premiership team.

Essendon's Paul Barnard with the 2000 premiership cup. Picture: AFL Photos

But before then, the key reason the premiership cup was South Australian bound was Darren Jarman. The silky Hawk midfielder returned home to Adelaide as the final piece of the three-club mega-trade and at three-quarter time of the Grand Final, with the Crows holding a 10-point lead, coach Malcolm Blight switched him to full-forward and he took the game apart with five goals (he finished with six) as the Crows won by 31 points. 


Adelaide worked hard to get back in the game in third quarter. But would the Crows have held off the Saints without the mercurial Jarman? That we don't know, but the trade is generally believed to have played a key part in Adelaide's climb up the ladder and back-to-back flags in 1997 and 1998.

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Great GF goals: Darren Jarman

1997 Grand Final, St Kilda v Adelaide

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Hawthorn’s 2013-2015 premiership three-peat featured fantastic contributions made by a number of players expertly brought to the club by Alastair Clarkson and his list management team. The first of those three flags might not have happened without Port Adelaide import Shaun Burgoyne's regal final term in the preliminary final against Geelong. Jack Gunston (Adelaide), Josh Gibson (North Melbourne), David Hale (North) and Ben McEvoy (St Kilda) were also important players through that time at Hawthorn.

But if the Hawks had an Achilles, it was in the key defensive posts. Taylor Walker and Kurt Tippett bullied them in the 2012 preliminary final, confirming the list jigsaw was missing one last piece. But in what was one of the first trades of its types – they had been common in leagues such as the NFL for many years – they secured veteran defender Brian Lake from the Western Bulldogs through a trade the year before he hit free agency. 

Brian Lake after winning his third flag with the Hawks. Picture: AFL Photos

The ‘pre-agent’ of which Lake was a prototype, won the Norm Smith Medal in the 2013 Grand Final and was the defensive anchor of three Hawthorn premiership teams. He was hugely influential.

As was Tom Boyd the following year for the Western Bulldogs. The 2013 No.1 draft pick played one season for GWS but successfully sought a trade to the Western Bulldogs 12 months later and signed a seven-year deal. His greatest game in the red, white and blue came in the 2016 Grand Final during which he took eight marks (six contested) and kicked three goals, including a monster in the final quarter that sealed the club’s first premiership win in 62 years. The Dogs had coughed up a first-round pick and their skipper, Ryan Griffen, to secure Boyd and it was totally worthwhile.

Tom Boyd celebrates a goal during the 2016 Toyota AFL Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

Richmond’s breakthrough premiership win in 2017 and those that followed in 2019 and 2020 were shaped by a series of great draft picks in the years before, but it was some smart play at the trade table in late 2016 that brought two difference-makers to Tigerland.

Powerful midfielder Dion Prestia moved from Gold Coast and joined a star-studded group that included Dustin Martin and Trent Cotchin, while ruckman Toby Nankervis, moved from Sydney looking for greater opportunity. His ability to get around the ground and create match-up issues everywhere gave the Tigers and their chaos-inspired gameplan a huge tactical advantage.

Josh Caddy and Toby Nankervis celebrate after winning the 2017 Grand Final over Adelaide. Picture: AFL Photos

Melbourne also drafted superbly to build the core of the team that ran away with this year’s premiership, the first by the club for 57 years. But the Demons may not have jumped that final hurdle without trading for Adelaide’s Jake Lever at the end of 2017 and Gold Coast’s Steven May 12 months later. 

It cost the Demons three first-round picks (two for Lever and another for May) but given they were both 2021 Therabody AFL All-Australians and as they continue to pinch themselves and watch the replay of this year’s Grand Final for the 100th time, Melbourne supporters would say they got them on the cheap.

Jake Lever celebrates the 2021 premiership with fans. Picture: AFL Photos