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AFL trade evaluation: Geelong

Along with the exit of Steven Motlop, a large portion of this years AFL trade period has centred around the long-awaited return of Garry Ablett Jnr.

Outgoing Players

Steven Motlop

Obviously the biggest name to be leaving the club, Steven Motlop departs as a free agent after 175 goals from 135 games with the Cats. A steal in the 2008 AFL draft at pick 39, Motlop started his career relatively slowly but in his first two full seasons, he kicked 26 and 44 goals respectively. Selected in the inaugural 22 under 22 in 2013, his time at the Cats was rather turbulent as he gained a reputation for inconsistent performances and a lack of work rate both on and off the field. His explosiveness and skills are elite when he is at his confident best (as seen during the 2017 finals), however, too often his poor judgement and non-desire to attack the football was evident letting his teammates down at crucial times. Assessing the impact his departure has on the team is something that only time will tell. In the short term, the Cats will aim to be more reliable in the forward line but will lack his creative playmaking when things aren't working out. In the long term, at 26, Motlop still has a lot to offer. In the end, the decision was out of the Cats' hands departing as a restricted free agent. The hierarchy of the Cats were extremely pleased and surprised being compensated with pick 19 (later on-traded to the Suns) in this year's draft. The loss has also freed up substantial salary cap space as Motlop was allegedly on a lucrative contract.

Darcy Lang

Assessing this late trade period move is much more straightforward than that of Motlop's move. Highly rated by the Cats recruitment team, local product, Lang was picked up at pick 16 in the 2013 AFL draft. Although still young and with 44 games from four seasons under his belt, his career has never really gotten going. He is undersized, under skilled and rarely impacts the contest enough to be a genuine midfielder and seldom used elsewhere, however, he had arguably his best game to-date in the Cats' semi-final win against the Swans. Recalled after recovering from a leg injury and several weeks in the reserves, Lang starred off half-back and the wing providing bursting runs and improved judgement. With the vast midfield stocks of the Cats, it is unlikely that this will cause any impact on the structure of the team and potential future pains. Traded for essentially a fourth-round selection this year, both Carlton and Geelong win this trade with and was really a "no-brainer" for a player deserving of a greater opportunity.


So far only the retiring pair of Tom Longeran, Andrew Mackie, as well as Josh Cowan have departed the Cats. The loss of Lonergan and Mackie will prove immeasurable as both players leave after 200 plus games, premierships and absolute stars of the game. The Cats have defenders to cover both players but will need the development of the likes of Jackson Thurlow and Jake Kolodjashnij to speed up dramatically if the Cats desire not to drop off defensively. Cowan has had an unfortunate start to his career, marred by injury and lack of opportunity. It's unlikely he'll be picked up elsewhere due to his injury history.

Incoming Players

Gary Ablett

I resisted starting with talking about Ablett despite the "circus" around his return to the Cats. Where to start? A future legend of the AFL, dual premiership, dual Brownlow medalist, multiple best and fairest awards, finally returns to the Cats after last year's failed attempt and 7 seasons in the "AFL-Gulag" that is the Gold Coast.  His time at the Suns has been mostly a challenge despite the second Brownlow and injury has plagued his previous three seasons. At his best (which again we saw briefly this year), he is still in the top 5 best players in the competition. However, at 33 (34 early next season) is he actually worth it? 

Geelong great and former teammate, Jimmy Bartel, believes his impact "will be enormous" and "he will kick 40-plus goals this [next] year", and CEO, Brian Cook agrees that "it will be an extra two goals" a game. He is definitely capable of 30 possessions a game and 40 plus goals a year, as he has done so in the past but I think the real strength will be in playing him as a permanent half-forward, in a similar, yet smaller style as his father did 20-plus years ago. This will free up the likes of Cockatoo and Parfitt for more midfield time, utilizing their speed and furthering development, as well as causing a matching-up nightmare for the opposition. The issue that comes with Gary is that he is a very self-focussed footballer in the sense that the game-plan has always revolved around him. Couple this with his age, injury and desire to play after recent family tragedy, and you really wonder (a) how long-term this move is and (b) if he can continue to be the star that we know he is.


1. Steven Motlop to Port Adelaide

Geelong receive Pick 19 (Compensation)

2. Pick 53 (at time of trade) to Richmond 

Geelong receive future third-round draft selection 

3. Darcy Lang, future fourth-round draft selection to Carlton 

Geelong receive Future third-round selection, Pick 58 (at time of trade)

4. Pick 19 (Compensation), future second round to Gold Coast 

Geelong receive Gary Ablett, Pick 24, future fourth-round

Current draft order

Neither particularly strong nor weak. Recovering two early second round draft picks for the compensation end-of-first-round-pick and Geelong's own first round whilst acquiring Gary Ablett was great work. However, A-grade talent in the top half-dozen picks won't be directly accessible to the Cats and they will either hope that their targets slide down the order, or perhaps the recruitment team has already singled out a few mid-draft-order players.

Draft Picks: 22, 24, 35, 58, 72, 90, 108

Final word and rating

In the final analysis, I think the acquisition of Gary Ablett is fantastic and as a fan, I am absolutely thrilled to see one of the greatest ever Cats back at the club. However, I think it is terribly short-sighted and shows a fundamental lack of understanding the shortfalls of this season. The fact that the entire trade period was dominated by one player that will be 34 next year is absolutely amazing. 

Geelong missed out on potential draft targets in Jake Stringer (23), Jack Watts (26) and Devon Smith (24), any combination of which could have more than covered the Cats' forward-line deficiencies for years to come. Coupled with failing to find other potential trade targets and not trading for higher selection draft selections was thoroughly disappointing. The Cats appear to be backing their recruiting team, hoping to uncover a late round gem with a number of picks rather than quality picks. 

I'm also aware of the need to stockpile picks for next year's "super" draft, as well as for the possible acquisition of Oscar Brownless. However, surely a handful of 20s-60s picks would be enough. Remembering that the Cats drafted 10 players last year, four of who have already debuted means that there is no shortage of young talent. 

Final Mark: C +

  1. What did Geelong trade to Richmond in exchange for Brad Ottens in 2004?

    1. Picks 5 and 25
    2. Pick 2
    3. Picks 12 and 16
    4. Pick 10 and a player

    Picks 12 and 16

    Pick 12 (Danny Meyer), Pick 16 (Adam Pattison) 

    Combined for a total of 92 games (26 & 66)

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  1. Quiz result

    Picks 12 and 16

    You scored

    Pick 12 (Danny Meyer), Pick 16 (Adam Pattison) 

    Combined for a total of 92 games (26 & 66)

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Alex Holmes

Climate scientist and avid sports enthusiast playing both AFL and Basketball at the local level. Alex regularly attends Geelong Cats games as well as Melbourne Victory and other sporting events in Australia.  Outside of Australia, Alex has seen matches for F.C. Barcelona, A.C. Milan (Soccer) , Golden State Warriors (Basketball) , Boston Bruins, Berliner Eisbär (Ice Hockey), and the Texas Rangers (Baseball).


AFL trade evaluation: Geelong

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