After the completion of the 2012 AFL season the league will be revolutionised by the introduction of free agency.
For eligible players this will give them the ability to leave their current club, bypassing the draft and trade periods, and essentially pick their next employer themselves. For the AFL, this will be an unprecedented change.
In the lead up to the introduction of free agency Football Nation is running a series of articles by guest writer Sam Mills that will focus on what free agency will do to your club at the end of the season.
This is the big one. Arguably the best mark in the game, Cloke has been linked to two main clubs with many others certainly interested. The 25-year old is a restricted free agent and the GWS Giants would love to have him as a marquee forward. He would also mentor young star Jeremy Cameron.
Fremantle have many to spare after missing out on Mitch Clark last year and to have him accompany Matthew Pavlich in their forward line would put them right up there in contention for their first flag. I’m expecting Cloke to leave, although Collingwood won’t go empty-handed.
Johnson is the heart of the Collingwood team. The only player left from when Mick Malthouse started coaching (discounting Tarrant who left for Fremantle then came back), Johnson is as loyal as you will get. Often mistaken for a turnover king, Johnson is one of the most accurate kicks in the competition. Will retire at the end of the season.
O’Brien won’t leave. He originally just wanted to train with Collingwood to get fit for his WAFL season with Perth, but Collingwood recruiting manager Derek Hine and Malthouse saw something in him and took him in the Rookie draft. Made his debut in 2005 and hasn’t looked back since. An All Australian in the Pies premiership year, O’Brien will be looking to do it again after a shaky start this year. Only threat may be to go home to Western Australia, but it’s very unlikely.
One threat only this year and that is Cloke leaving. We all know he’ll be offered big money by the Giants and possibly some other clubs and I eventually think he’ll leave, although in saying that I hope he sticks true to the club that has stuck by him in the tough times when he couldn’t kick from 5 metres out. Need not worry Pies fans if he does leave, expect two first-rounders, of which Collingwood haven’t had since the 2008 draft.
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