GREATER Western Sydney appears determined to land a readymade ruck partner for Shane Mumford in October's player exchange period, with Brisbane Lion Matthew Leuenberger and Gold Coast's Zac Smith among its chief targets.
The Giants won seven of their first 11 games this year when Mumford was at the helm of their ruck division, but since the former Swan went down with a season-ending ankle injury they have won just four more times.
GWS has a trio of promising young ruckmen in Tom Downie, Rory Lobb and Andrew Phillips, but they have struggled to fill the massive hole left by Mumford in the second half of 2015.
Leuenberger, 27, and Smith, 25, appeal to the Giants as more battle-hardened sidekicks for Mumford.
It is understood that Leuenberger is their No.1 target, but the Giants face stiff competition for the restricted free agent.
Leuenberger, 203cm, is almost certain to leave the Gabba in October's free agency period, but a lot of things have to play out before the West Australian decides on a new home.
As AFL.com.au revealed in July, the Sydney Swans are extremely interested in Leuenberger as they seek to provide support for Mike Pyke, who will turn 32 next March.
But the Swans won't be able to field a competitive offer for Leuenberger unless they convince the AFL to lift the trade restrictions that prohibit them from offering a rival player more than the average AFL wage of about $350,000 a season while the cost of living allowance (COLA) is being phased out.
More recently, Fremantle has also emerged as a potential suitor for Leuenberger.
But the Dockers, who already boast the competition's deepest ruck division with four-time All Australian Aaron Sandilands, Zac Clarke, Jonathon Griffin and Jack Hannath, won't decide whether to make a firm bid for the Lion until their season is over.
The Giants also face competition to sign the out-of-contract Smith, with Essendon and Geelong also circling him.
The ruckman could yet decide to re-sign with Gold Coast, but if he leaves Essendon is favourite to win his signature.
Fellow Sun Aaron Hall also remains out of contract and opposition clubs led by North Melbourne are starting to court the in-form midfielder.
Hall's negotiations with Gold Coast have dragged on this year as his form has fluctuated, but the Suns are confident of re-signing him soon.
Dumped to the NEAFL after a slow start to the season, Hall returned in round 14 and quickly hit career-best form.
In the past six rounds, the 24-year-old Tasmanian has averaged nearly 27 possessions a game and been one of the Suns' prime movers in the midfield.
The Brisbane Lions are believed to have entered the race for out-of-contract Giant Nathan Wilson and his teammate Curtly Hampton, who is contracted until the end of 2016.
AFL.com.au revealed in July that Adelaide was interested in both defenders, with Wilson also on Port Adelaide's radar.
It now appears likely that both players will seek greater senior opportunities at new homes, although Wilson is unlikely to move home to Western Australia.
In other news:
- Although contracted Brisbane Lion Jack Redden's preferred new home is West Coast, Richmond and Melbourne are also believed to be interested in the prospective 2016 free agent.
- Rival clubs believe Hawthorn is circling star Gold Coast youngster Harley Bennell, but it will be hard for the reigning premier to put up a trade deal attractive enough to convince the Suns to part with the sublimely talented midfielder, who is contracted until the end of 2017. St Kilda, Essendon and Melbourne have also been linked with Bennell.
- Carlton free agent Matthew Kreuzer will likely stay at Ikon Park but could pursue bigger offers elsewhere if negotiations with the Blues break down, with the Western Bulldogs particularly keen on the rejuvenated ruckman.
- This year's biggest free agency fish, Patrick Dangerfield,still looks set to join Geelong, with most rival clubs confident that Adelaide will not match the Cats' offer for the restricted free agent.
- Star Giants youngster Adam Treloar seems almost certain to request a move to Collingwood, in preference to his other serious suitors Richmond and North Melbourne. The Giants will demand a steep price for Treloar, however, and if the Pies struggle to satisfy them, Richmond could try to re-enter the race.
- Essendon swingman Jake Carlisle remains likely to seek a fresh start in 2016, with North Melbourne and Carlton believed to lead the race for his signature. The Western Bulldogs' interest in the Bomber appears to have cooled.
- Geelong midfielder Steven Motlop looks more and more likely to re-sign despite strong interest from Richmond and Adelaide.
- Carlton swingman Lachie Henderson still seems set on calling Geelong home from 2016 after requesting a trade recently, while teammate Chris Yarran will almost certainly follow him out of Ikon Park despite having a year left on his contract. The prospective 2016 free agent has already been linked to Richmond.
- Spearhead Charlie Dixon looks set to leave Gold Coast to join Port Adelaide on a long-term deal worth about $650,000 a season.
- Speedster Lewis Jetta is still grappling with whether to re-sign with the Sydney Swans or move home to Western Australia.
- West Coast vice-captain Scott Selwood remains highly likely to join elder brother Joel at Geelong. If the Eagles were to receive an end-of-first-round or second-round compensation pick for the restricted free agent, they could look to use it in a trade for Redden or Jetta.
- Collingwood is shaping more and more as Brisbane Lion James Aish's preferred new home, with Pies defender Paul Seedsman mooted as a possible part of any trade.
- The futures of Melbourne pair Jeremy Howe and Colin Garland remain up in the air. Out-of-contract utility Howe is understood to have remained on Greater Western Sydney's radar after the Giants made a late play for him in last year's trade period. Restricted free agent Garland's negotiations with Melbourne remain on-going but a new deal appears some way off.
- The Brisbane Lions are believed to have cooled on Hawks defender Matt Suckling. The Lions don't want to devalue any compensation pick they receive for losing Matthew Leuenberger by taking Suckling as a free agent, and it's believed the defender is not prepared to leave Hawthorn empty-handed by entering the pre-season draft.
- Port spearhead Jay Schulz will likely seek a trade to Fremantle to take up a two-year deal worth about $500,000 a season.
- Out-of-favour North Melbourne forward Aaron Black appears likely to request a move at the end of the season, but the West Australian remains on a lucrative contract to the end of 2017, which could complicate any trade negotiations.
- Out-of-contract Port Adelaide utility Andrew Moore is likely to seek a fresh start after managing just five senior games this year. The 24-year-old has been in outstanding form with the Port Adelaide Magpies, having been named in their best players in eight of his 11 SANFL games in 2015.