Nonchalance Is The New Cool
The sun has set on the 2020 crazy trade season and thankfully it is now in hibernation for another twelve months. As Fremantle fans we’ve endured mixed emotions throughout the entire nine days. It was like we were the nerds in school watching through the library windows at the cool kids doing cool kid things outside, secretly harbouring desires to join in. However, in a win for nerds everywhere simply watching on is now the cool counter culture. Nonchalance is the new cool!
Through the trade period we held our nerve, stayed incredibly disciplined and we rocked the, “that’s our best offer, take it or leave it, you know where to find us” approach. Consequently it shows we’re ultra-comfortable in our own purple skin, we’ve got the swagger up and we’re Connor McGregor strutting it into 2021.
While the Camerons, Danihers, Treloars, Stephensons and Saads were dominating the airwaves you get the feeling the new Fremantle regime went in incredibly prepared, all on the same page and with a precise plan in place which they were never straying from. I’d go as far as to suggest it was a case of leading by example and further setting the disciplinary tone for what is now demanded from everyone at the club.
Given our distinct lack of participation through the trading days, I imagine it will be an odd experience for the likes of David Mundy when he rolls into the club post-trade period and sees the kitchen sink is still there. It does make you momentarily ask the question…. who is this club and what have they done with the free-wheeling, farm selling Docker outfit we have often been in the past and disturbingly become accustomed to?
The fact is Justin Longmuir, Peter Bell and whoever else has list management input, has played the 2020 trade period masterfully. Sure a Jordan Clark would have filled a need and his signature would have set off an array of happy dances but the deal that may have swung the trade was obviously outside what was considered fair value by the purple people in power. And again you have to sit back and dip your lid in admirable acknowledgment of the 2020 Fremantle list and trade gate keepers.
Growth and or improvement are rarely linear because often in life you have to momentarily go backward to go forward. When the signature ink dried on the Jesse Hogan heading to GWS in return for pick 54 trade, it felt like it was our definitive going back to go forward moment. It marked a pivotal point in time for the club giving off a sense it was the official completion of the changing of the hierarchy guard.
The Jesse Hogan project simply didn’t work out. We’ve now taken the capital loss, closed the door on what was an unsuccessful investment and hopefully learnt our final lesson that paying overs on high risk propositions is rarely a profitable business strategy.
There’s a sense of genuine ownership now at Fremantle. When you look at the last twelve months, taking in the two, 2019 and 2020, trade periods and the 2019 national draft, you can see the current regime’s stamp on the club in numerous ways. While we don’t want to be disrespectful to Connor Blakely, he may be the exception when it comes to the fact coach Justin Longmuir now has the soldiers he wants in the roles he wants them playing. He thoroughly vetted the squad and made the changes he viewed necessary. While knowing there is still a lot more developmental work to do, this now is his Fremantle baby.
Again we feel a bit for Connor Blakely because seemingly there wasn’t the external interest in him that the club possibly hoped there would be. However, the universe works in mysterious ways and it has set up an opportunity for Blakely to grab with both hands if he so desires. He is a better player than he showed in 2020 and we all know that. 2021 could well be a pivotal, back from oblivion and career defining year for him which may lead to a beneficial future for both parties, a future that seemed unlikely, and perhaps still is. Let’s hope in years to come this Connor Blakely inaction historically becomes a wonderful story of our 2020 trade period.
The fact of the matter is Fremantle was in super shape going into this trade period. We’re a young developing list that will have an average age of a tick over 24 in 2021. Given the groundwork that has been done, throwing away draft picks or trading out a quality youngster to potentially bring in high end talent just would have felt counterproductive, regardless of the results. It may have felt like we had taken a step off the path away from the authentic build and in the direction of a return to yesteryear.
Not only is such a move fraught with danger given how often clubs don’t seem to get reward for cost, you also have to look at the difficulties in pulling off a trade of that calibre. Once a player is named as a possible trade out, it has to mess with his mindset to some extent, but significantly if the deal doesn’t get over the line. And if you’ve sold the ‘one in all in’ story to the players across the board, particularly the youngsters, and shown them that they’re building something special of which they’re a vital part, you can damage the legitimacy of your brand and risk fracturing the internal tight-knit relationship which is paramount for success in a team environment.
When all said and done we actually didn’t need to get involved in trade week beyond the Hogan situation. While to some degree a lack of draft pick currency influenced our inaction, we still largely held all the cards and we played a very good hand. To be honest, in my book there’s very few people currently at the club I’d be willing to part with to get in return some one judged equal or possibly superior. Going on the quality we have and the upside, I wouldn’t have taken the risk unless it was ridiculously in our favour, a Don Corleone type offer we couldn't refuse, but not for the same consequential reasons. And even then I’d end up buying a Ned Kelly tin suit and take my chances rather than let go a Cerra, a Brayshaw or a Serong.
No doubt we did go in with that very mindset. It seemed we would only make a move ‘if the price is right’ which is why 2020 for Fremantle may well be referred to as the Ian Turpie trade period.
On the flip-side of our seemingly self-imposed trade embargo, it’s no secret we do need some outside run and a forward to compliment Matt Taberner wouldn’t go astray. However, Rory Lobb has plenty of upside going on his 2020 output, Sam Sturt will not be light on opportunity and we should see the return of the very nice moving Darcy Tucker. Above and beyond that we remain patient and engaged in the build and we won’t lose sight of where we are, how it has so far been done and where we are looking to go. Back the process and have faith in the plan.
Let it never be forgotten that necessity is the mother of all invention. With the potential return of Alex Pearce, Griffin Logue and Joel Hamling and the growth in Hayden Young, does it allow us to find out if a Luke Ryan has forward capabilities on a par with his defensive attributes? While in reverse, if we tried it with a Jesse Hogan it obviously isn’t something the club won’t entertain. Through necessity we saw the blue sky emergence of Luke Ryan himself, the reliability of Ethan Hughes and the improvement of Taylin Duman. With a host of defensive players jostling for position, who is to say experimental versatility won’t unexpectedly fill the deficiencies.
So with all that set to play out in 2021, for now we’re well rested and no doubt well researched. We head into the 2020 National draft armed with picks 12, 32 and 55 (formerly 54) so it’s on with the Chef’s Toque and into the draft recruiting kitchen to see what we can cook up with so few ingredients. If we managed to get out with a handy young recruit with the pick 12 and a couple of academy kids it would top us up nicely and continue the organic build.
It was a very quiet and inactive period for us but, for mine, I believe our beloved Fremantle Football Club just won trade week. Every year Freo are mercilessly referenced in the content filling and repetitive “worst trades of all time” lists. But that is no more! Through no fault of our own we will no longer be synonymous with and king of the horror trades. For some bizarre reason in 2020 Collingwood said, “Hold my beer and watch this.”