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The AFL's free agency and exchange period for 2017 is now upon us and we can look forward to two weeks of fun and games as the AFL clubs, the players and managers of those in the mix to move home or to leave the scene altogether, have their time on trading's big stage.

In the background to that action are the young hopefuls, many of who are strutting their stuff at the AFL Draft Combine and the various State Combines in the hope of attracting the attention of the recruiting staff to win themselves the opportunity to replace those who are leaving vacancies through retirements and delistings.

The NAB AFL restricted free agency offer and unrestricted free agency period began on Friday with the first free agency transfer taking place when the Western Bulldogs took restricted free agent Jackson Trengove after that player's former club Port Adelaide, opted not to match the Doggie's offer for him. 

Trengove was the first of this year's "leavers" - a player wanting to seek action away from his old club, in his case back in his home town. He won't be the last. 

The real exchange action kicks off on Monday morning with the official opening of the NAB AFL Trade Period which will last for 10½ days through to 2.00pm on Thursday 19 October, by which time, we'll all be well and truly tired out of the machinations of the trading game.

So what is it that Demon fans can look forward to over the next fortnight? 

Well ... if you've been out of the scene and involved in interplanetary travel over the past few months, the name Jake Lever might have escaped your attention. Otherwise, the young key defender from the Crows is going to be the centre of attention in the coming days and possibly longer if the rage of Adelaide's officialdom fails to subside.

For a club that earned the respect and admiration of the football world for the magnificent way it regrouped after the tragic murder of Phil Walsh, Adelaide's tantrumous behaviour in the wake of Lever's announcement of his decision to go home has been unnecessarily churlish. It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds.

The Demons have also been named as the preferred destination club for another "leaver" - homesick youngster Harley Balic from the Dockers but the spotlight will remain on Lever for this trade period.

More of that later, but what does the Melbourne Football Club need to continue it's upward progression of recent years? The club's national recruiting manager, Jason Taylor tells us that by "the way the year finished off, we’ve got a long way to go and a lot of work to do. We don’t want to be kicking the heels up now – we want to be digging a bit deeper.” And of course, it always boils down to improving your midfield - Midfield depth a focus: Taylor.

Of course, articles such as this one don't  give us much detail as to how things will eventually pan out but we can be assured of one thing.

To secure a big fish like Jake Lever who, despite his poor polling in Adelaide's B&F (he failed to score a top 10 finish in his time with the Crows), is a quality player and person with leadership credentials written all over him, the club will have to forget about featuring in the first round of this year's AFL National Draft. 

At this stage, it's looking like Melbourne will have to give pick 10 and another pick to Adelaide to get Lever to the club. The Crows might also insist on giving the youngster fifty lashes to soothe their tortured egos as punishment for the kid wanting to return home to his family (although that wasn't a major crime when Scott Thompson wanted to do the same thing in 2005 or in the case of Bryce Gibbs last year).

Demon fans got a taste of missing out on the early draft action last year when they had to wait until pick # 46 (Mitch Hannan) and this scenario could be repeated in 2017. In order to give you some perspective into what your club is giving up, let's go back in time to when a very young Jake Lever was strutting his stuff with the Calder Cannons as a bottom ager capable of gaining Vic Metro selection in that year -



An ACL injury cut him down in his draft year but he still earned selection in the first round of the draft -


During his rehabilitation Lever showed his mental strength by setting a goal of competing in the Noosa triathlon which he did alongside Calder's strength and conditioning coach, Steve Forcone. The Demons had picks 2 and 3 at that year's draft which they used to secure Christian Petracca and Angus Brayshaw but they still made a play for Lever by putting  former skipper Jack Trengove on the trade table - we all know how that ended up.

The Trengove gambit was interesting because it demonstrated that under the current system of player acquisition and trading, there will be times when clubs will have to take some risks and make seemingly unpopular decisions to improve their lists. We need to remember this when names like that of Jack Watts are raised in the days to come.

The Oracle will be back from time to time during the free agency and trade period to cover anything that might take place - spectacular or otherwise.

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Like the mighty Mississippi, the AFL's free agency and exchange period just kept sleepily rollin' along taking the football world on a somnolent ride to nowhere until Thursday when the draft showboat suddenly hit the rapids.

Up until then, only two players (Jackson Trengove to the Western Bulldogs and Tom Rockliff to Port Adelaide) had moved to new clubs and that was via free agency but otherwise, there was absolutely no movement; the AFL's post grand final "action" was like watching the grass grow on a riverbank (except for those following the Richmond premiership medallion scandal). Things were so bad that good folks on NAB AFL Trade Radio had run out of things to talk about and they were considering playing martial music to fill the quiet spots.

Then the dominoes started to fall.

Jake Lever was the first, joining the Demons in exchange for pick 10 and a 2018 first round pick. Melbourne also received selection 35 and gave away a future fourth rounder as part of the deal.
In no time at all, Devon Smith joined the Bombers from the Giants in return for pick 11 and a future third round pick. Essendon will get back pick 24 and a future second round selection.
Late in the day, Port Adelaide's Jarman Impey was traded to Hawthorn for selection 33 in return, leaving the Hawks back in familiar territory - their current first selection in this year's draft is in the 40s.

The week ended with Fremantle's Hayden Crozier moving to the Western Bulldogs on Friday in exchange for picks 40 and 82 but it was the Power that was still commanding most of the attention.

Steven Motlop formally chose that club as his new home while the Cats are likely to pass on him. Port Adelaide remains the likely new home for Jack Watts.

Apparently, Watts was given a hard time by the Cats when he toured their facilities and they made it clear they weren't going to part with an early second round pick for him.

So how does Watts get to Port? 

One way might be through their ruckman Matthew Lobbe, who is reportedly seeking more game time elsewhere - possibly at one of the Queensland clubs that just happen to have early second round picks and a need for a solid ruckman. A trade involving some pick swaps might just land a three way deal.

The fly in the ointment as far as Brisbane is concerned is that they have put pick 19 on the table for Adelaide's Charlie Cameron. The Crows wants the Lions’ pick 12. 

At week's end, Essendon is still working on deals to snare Adam Saad and Jake Stringer while Melbourne will also be looking to secure the homesick Harley Balic from the Dockers. 

Things are likely to warm up next week and more deals are expected to be unraveled as we move further downstream.

More to come ...

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A week's a long time in football.
It was only that long ago when Adelaide skipper Tex Walker unleashed his fury at new Demon Jake Lever over his decision to leave the Crows.
The youngster was disinvited from attending the club's best and fairest as a result of his decision to return home and Walker even claimed he had chosen “money over success”.  Certainly the money was an issue as it always is in a professional sport but Adelaide's hostile attitude was unbecoming and insulting.
A week later, it was also embarrassing and hypocritical when Bryce Gibbs was welcomed home after long winded negotiations secured the midfielder's release from Carlton. Like Lever  and many others both this year and in the past (including the recently retired Crow Scott Thompson who left Melbourne more than a decade ago for an illustrious career in the City of Churches), Gibbs was coming home and I wonder if Tex will be able to look him in the eyes when they first meet because there's little doubt that the former Blue will not only be back at his old stamping ground - he'll also be on good coin.
Perhaps the rain will wash away all the pain the Crows captain must still be feeling over that grand final defeat?
Meanwhile, life and the trades went on over recent days with the uncomfortable departure of Jack Watts to Port Adelaide for draft pick #31. There's a lot been said about the club's decision to offload the Demons' golden haired boy of nine years but one suspects we haven't heard it all as yet. 
The Demons' other involvement in the trade period came with the less controversial recruitment of another "want away" player in Harley Balic who managed only four games in an injury marred two years with the Dockers. The former Sandringham Dragon who played there under Melbourne's Justin Plapp gets the chance to revive his career in his home town. A little over two years ago, he was considered a top ten draft prospect but injury saw him drop to #38 and an unhappy two year stint with Fremantle.
The free agency and exchange period ended with the usual flurry and when the dust settled there were no players of Lever's ilk traded other than Lever himself. The closest you might get would be Lachie Weller who landed back at one of his previous homes on the Gold Coast. 
Luke Hodge will end his time as an AFL player at Brisbane while Garry Ablett Junior comes home to where it all started. Both are at the end of their careers while Gibbs is also in the veteran stage. 
Otherwise, the usual array of unwanted and (in the case of a few) tainted players were given second opportunities elsewhere and some draft picks changed hands in what was, in my view, an unspectacular period leading up to what looms as an equally unspectacular draft given the belief that the pool of players there is rather shallow.
Free Agency
Western Bulldogs get: Jack Trengove Port Adelaide get: no compensation
Port Adelaide get: Tom Rockliff Brisbane get: Pick No.18 compensation
Port Adelaide gets: Steven Motlop Geelong gets: Pick No.19 compensation
Melbourne gets: Jake Lever, Pick No.35, 2018 third-round pick Adelaide gets: Pick 10, 2018 first-round pick, 2018 fourth-round pick 
Essendon gets: Devon Smith, pick No.24, 2018 second-round pick GWS Giants gets: Pick No.11, 2018 third-round pick
Hawthorn gets: Jarman Impey, pick No.67 Port Adelaide gets: Pick No.33, 61, 2018 fourth-round pick
Western Bulldogs gets: Hayden Crozier, 2018 fourth-round pick Fremantle gets: Pick No.40 and 82.
Essendon gets: Adam Saad Gold Coast gets: Essendon’s future second-round pick
West Coast gets: Brendon Ah Chee, 2018 fourth-round pick Port Adelaide gets: 2018 third-round pick
Port Adelaide gets: Jack Watts Melbourne gets: Pick No.31
Melbourne gets: Harley Balic Fremantle gets: Pick 66
Gold Coast gets: Harrison Wigg, pick 54, 2018 fourth-round pick Adelaide gets: Pick 39
Adelaide gets: Bryce Gibbs, pick No.77, 2018 second-round pick, 2018 third-round pick Carlton gets: Pick No.10, 16, 73, 2018 second-round pick
Gold Coast gets: Aaron Young Port Adelaide gets: 2018 fourth-round pick (attached to Adelaide)
St Kilda gets: Logan Austin, 2018 fourth-round pick Port Adelaide gets: 2018 third-round pick
Collingwood gets: Sam Murray, Pick No.70, 2018 third-round pick Sydney gets: 2018 second-round pick
Adelaide gets: Sam Gibson North Melbourne gets: Pick No.91
Fremantle gets: Nathan Wilson, pick No.71 GWS Giants get: Pick No.57, 2018 second-round pick
Carlton gets: Matthew Lobbe Port Adelaide gets: Pick No.95
Essendon gets: Jake Stringer Western Bulldogs get: Pick No.25, 30
Carlton gets: Matthew Kennedy GWS Giants get: Pick No.28
Carlton gets: Darcy Lang, 2018 fourth-round pick Geelong gets: Pick No.58, 2018 fourth-round pick
Brisbane gets: Luke Hodge, pick No.44 Hawthorn gets: Pick No.43, 75
Geelong gets: Gary Ablett, pick No.24, 2018 fourth-round pick Gold Coast gets: Pick No.19, 2018 second-round pick 
Brisbane gets: Charlie Cameron Adelaide gets: Pick No.12
Gold Coast gets: Lachie Weller, pick No.41 Fremantle gets: Pick No.2
Fremantle gets: Brandon Matera Gold Coast gets: 2018 third-round pick
Western Bulldogs get: Josh Schache Brisbane Lions get: Pick No.25, 40
Pick swaps 
West Coast gets: Pick 21, 26, 37, 2018 second-round pick Gold Coast gets: Pick 50, 2018 first-round pick
Western Bulldogs get: Pick No.16, 40 Carlton gets: Pick No.28, 30, 2018 second-round pick
Port Adelaide gets: Pick No.59, 63, 2018 second-round pick St Kilda gets: Pick No.34, 2018 fourth-round pick
Richmond gets: Pick No.53 Geelong gets: 2018 third-round pick
Brisbane Lions get: Pick No.15, 52 Richmond gets: Pick No.20, 25
Port Adelaide gets: Pick No.46, 2018 third-round pick North Melbourne gets: 2018 third-round pick 2018 third-round pick

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