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.
On face value, it’s one of the more surprising moves of this year’s trade period.
It’s not around Ben Long the individual, but rather that Gold Coast have seen fit to offer him a four year deal and give up pick 32 when he projects as, at best, a back half of their starting 22.
There are two angles to consider when discussing Long’s move from a Gold Coast point of view – the first half of the contract, followed by the second half.
During the free agency and trade period, these posts will be exclusive to Patrons on the $7.50 and $10 tiers for 24 hours after publishing.
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 payment on sign up, and then nothing else needed until March 2023.
The Ben Long contract: Year 1 & 2
To start 2023, Ben Long should be a lock to play if fit.
Lachie Weller and Connor Budarick will still be recuperating from their ACL tears, while it remains to be seen how Wil Powell recovers from his gruesome ankle fracture and ligament damage. At the time Gold Coast believed he’d take part in pre-season, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if it’s a cautious road back.
It leaves plenty of spots free in the back half for Long to slot in to, and his game fits in seamlessly with how Gold Coast played in 2022 – metres gained, high contests, very direct.
That consistency of role is something he never had at St Kilda – partially because of the options ahead of him, and also due to the changing style and personnel at the club.
Sometimes he was forward, sometimes he was back, and although he played between 16 and 19 games each of the last four years, it was almost always on the fringes.
It was why his Round 23 game against Sydney – at half-back – came from so far out of the blue. Some basic stat comparisons between that outing and his previous career bests:
|Stat||v Sydney, Round 23||Previous career best|
|Rebound 50s||8 (no kick-ins)||4|
In Long’s first year he’ll have the opportunity to replicate that season-ending performance, likely entrusted as the main back half receiver.
It’s when the cavalry returns that things will get tricky.
If you’ve missed any of the Free Agency & Trade Analysis posts, here’s where to catch up:
Karl Amon, Hawthorn
The Ben Long contract: Year 3 & 4
Unless there’s a significant improvement on exposed form to date, there are few (non-injury) situations where Long will be best 22 for the back half of his deal.
This is where it becomes more of a list management analysis rather than an on-field discussion.
This isn’t to begrudge Long in any way, shape, or form – get that security and dollars. An AFL career is short, and it doesn’t matter if a random person on the Internet (me) thinks the deal is excessive from a club point of view.
Given Gold Coast’s position and what they believe is their best option to hold onto talent, at a stretch I can be talked into needing a third year to clinch the deal.
A fourth year – at a time when the Suns should be in a position where they’re looking for final pieces to help them contend – seems overly excessive* and using a valuable list spot at a position where there’ll always be options.
(*The unknown here is what other teams were offering and whether that influenced things)
Ultimately it comes down to this for Gold Coast: A short-term best 22 player, downgrading to the fringes for the last half of his contract, and possibly more. For that they’ve handed out a four-year deal and a decent pick.
Maybe it ends up being worth it and this post ages like milk. But on the surface, it looks strange that in a time of “salary cap reallocation”, the Suns have offered a long term deal to a dime a dozen player who’s unlikely to play a part in their key moments.
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 Melbourne||Read||West Coast||Read|
|Gold Coast||Read||Port Adelaide||Read|