2022 Free Agency Analysis: Jayden Hunt, West Coast

Welcome to the 2022 Free Agency & Trade Period analysis series. Over the next fortnight, the plan is to look at every player heading to a new club. It’s not going to be a ‘who won the trade’ series, but rather a look at how players fit into existing setups, or what changes they may force.

Heading west with a three-year deal in his pocket, Jayden Hunt is the newest Eagle.

Hunt, who turns 28 in the early stages of the 2023 season, probably doesn’t fit the demographic Eagles fans were expecting after a season from hell and an ageing list.

But what he does symbolise is the change West Coast are trying to make with their game style, refreshing it to better fit in the current landscape.

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After that they’ll be free for all. Given the Patreon is only running until the end of October, signing up now means only one monthly payment is needed before it goes on hiatus until March 2023.

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After nine years in the AFL system, 114 games, and a career spent flicking between best 22 and the fringe, it’s fair to say Hunt is a known commodity.

West Coast won’t have any confusion on the type of player they’re getting. Assuming Hunt is pencilled in for half-back, they’ll expect elite pace and line-breaking, coupled with sometimes questionable kicking and decision making.

Some weeks it’ll be more of the former, other matches the latter, and then it’s simply a matter of which side wins out on the day. There’s nothing new in that respect and in a vacuum, Hunt’s signing isn’t going to move the needle much and suddenly make West Coast a much better side.

The relevant part here is in the big picture, and what it says about how the Eagles want to play.

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Posts continue to come thick and fast. If you’ve missed anything recently, here are links to catch up:

Monday 3rd: Trade Analysis: Bobby Hill
Friday 30th: Free Agency Analysis: Karl Amon
Thursday 29th: Look Back/Ahead: Geelong
Wednesday 28th: Look Back/Ahead: Sydney
Sunday 25th: 2022 Grand Final: A stoppage domination

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In the Eagles’ post-season piece, I wrote about their attempted style shift. The cliff notes from there:

In short: a shift away from ball retention to prioritise a higher contest style. When we think about West Coast’s play over the last few years, it was centred around picking teams apart with a kick-mark style and not as much focus on dominating the contested game. We saw how that worked when conditions were greasy and precision impossible.

What works hand in hand with a higher contest style is speed to break away from that congestion.

Hunt’s move signifies West Coast are down the path of no return when it comes to reshaping their offensive movement, moving far away from the measured kick-mark style which brought the ultimate success.

This theme is going to come up often over the next couple of weeks, but playing in this way is how the game’s evolving.

Led by Collingwood this year, teams have realised speed is the best way to break down opposition defensive schemes that have far quicker than offensive equivalents.

Hunt isn’t going to be the one move which changes everything for West Coast. But it’s their first step – of many.

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In case you missed it, the Look Back/Look Ahead series recently wrapped.

Every team’s list was analysed in depth, with a key question picked out for 2023. In some ways the posts work hand-in-hand with these individual analyses, understanding needs and priorities.

Here are all the links to catch up on:

North MelbourneReadWest CoastRead
GWSReadEssendonRead
AdelaideReadHawthornRead
Gold CoastReadPort AdelaideRead
St KildaReadCarltonRead
RichmondReadWestern BulldogsRead
MelbourneReadFremantleRead
BrisbaneReadCollingwoodRead
SydneyReadGeelongRead

Here are all the Patreon details and how to sign up.

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