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.
The first player signing of the Brad Scott era is Will Setterfield, crossing from Carlton for a fourth-round pick shuffle.
Setterfield, stuck behind Patrick Cripps, George Hewett, Matthew Kennedy, Adam Cerra and Sam Walsh in the on-ball rotation at the Blues, now has an opportunity to make that position his own at Essendon.
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 fun part about a new coach’s first signing is the licence to read way too much into things and make sweeping conclusions.
In Scott’s time at North Melbourne, the midfield always had a contested focus (perhaps to the detriment of outside movement, but I digress).
It was Andrew Swallow, it was Ben Cunnington, it was Jack Ziebell, Levi Greenwood at times, and even at the 2013 draft Trent Dumont* was selected as an inside midfielder when the depth chart there was stacked.
(*Dumont turned himself into a strong role player on the wing after it became clear there’d be minimal time inside)
The overall point is that Scott preferred a strong inside contingent, and with the signing of Setterfield, it looks like he’s identified the same area as a focus at Essendon.
Setterfield is in the position where he’s too good for VFL level, tallying disposals for fun. Of his last six full matches, he had 40 disposals twice, along with a game of 34 and another of 35.
The extra part of his game which makes him appealing to Essendon is how he can also be defensively minded on the inside – a trait in short supply amongst their current midfielders.
Without relitigating the topic, in Essendon’s post-season list analysis there were 600 words dedicated to fixing their midfield mix, and that lens applies to Setterfield’s addition.
As it stands, Essendon’s midfield is tilted way too far offensively, and it’s also small. Setterfield, at 192 centimetres and with his attributes, goes a way to fixing both of those issues on paper.
When the only cost is a list spot, it’s a low-risk acquisition. At worst it adds genuine midfield depth which the list has barely had in recent years.
If it pays off and Setterfield makes the midfield better, it’s been done basically for free, allows the remaining midfielders to work to their strengths more often, and provides more balance to an Essendon outfit which desperately needs it.
There is a question on which player will see the biggest reduction in role between Merrett, Parish, and Shiel, but we’ll save that conversation for another time.
If you’ve missed any of the Free Agency & Trade Analysis posts, here’s where to catch up:
Karl Amon, Hawthorn
Josh Corbett, Fremantle