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.
After seven years at Essendon, Aaron Francis is off to Sydney looking to revitalise his career.
The former number six pick fills a need for Sydney, looking to flesh out their defensive depth behind the McCartin brothers and Dane Rampe.
Regular readers will know I’ve spent most of the year raving about Sydney’s list build, progression, and how they’re placed for the next few years.
If you haven’t seen that, here’s their Finals Dossier and post-season analysis to catch up with.
The Swans are in a spot where they can focus on rounding out the squad, looking at depth signings, and cover in certain positions.
It’s where Francis comes into play. Before his arrival, Sydney’s key defender chart looked something like this:
– Tom McCartin
– Paddy McCartin
– Dane Rampe (32 years old)
– Robbie Fox (not to downplay his excellent Grand Final, but more suited to a third tall type from week to week)
– Lewis Melican (no games in 2022, 15 in 2020-21)
– Will Gould (yet to debut)
From a depth point of view, there isn’t a whole lot of cover available. This year was a dream result for the Swans, with both McCartin’s and Rampe missing a grand total of one game between them. You can’t bank on that every season.
If you’ve missed any of the Free Agency & Trade Analysis posts, here’s where to catch up:
Karl Amon, Hawthorn
Jayden Hunt, West Coast | Bobby Hill, Collingwood | Tim Taranto, Richmond
Blake Acres, Carlton | Liam Jones, Western Bulldogs | Daniel McStay, Collingwood
Ben Long, Gold Coast | Zaine Cordy, St Kilda | Griffin Logue & Darcy Tucker, North Melbourne | Tom Berry, Gold Coast
Josh Corbett, Fremantle
Tanner Bruhn, Geelong
Will Setterfield, Essendon | Izak Rankine, Adelaide | Toby Bedford, GWS | Jason Horne-Francis & Willie Rioli, Port Adelaide | Luke Jackson, Fremantle
Billy Frampton, Collingwood | Jack Gunston, Brisbane | Jack Bowes, Geelong | Jacob Hopper, Richmond
Sam Weideman, Essendon | Lachie Hunter & Josh Schache, Melbourne | Tom Mitchell, Collingwood | Ollie Henry, Geelong | Cooper Stephens and Lloyd Meek, Hawthorn | Josh Dunkley, Brisbane | Rory Lobb, Western Bulldogs | Jaeger O’Meara, Fremantle
Francis has had an odd career. After Essendon selected him with pick six at the 2015 Draft, he’s only managed 54 games in seven years, thrown forward, back and seemingly everywhere in between.
Whether that’s because of Francis himself, or the development program, probably depends on who you ask.
There have been glimpses of what Francis is capable of – largely as a defender. His back end of 2019 was eye-catching, but he couldn’t build on that after signing a three-year deal.
Some of that was due to Essendon. Defenders are often at the mercy of what’s ahead of them – with the way Essendon prioritised offence, at times it wouldn’t have mattered if prime Stephen Silvagni and Matthew Scarlett were on the last line dealing with a deluge of entries.
That won’t be a problem at Sydney, with a consistent, sustainable defensive system.
When Francis is called on as first cab off the rank, he won’t be asked to do anything outside of his comfort zone. I’d be surprised if he is anything more than a depth option, but it fills a minor list need for a side aiming to contend at the pointy end of September.
So to summarise, after a few hundred words on how Francis is a solid depth signing to fill a gap, because it’s Sydney there’s only one thing left to determine…
Does Francis make the All Australian team in 2024 or 2025?
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|
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