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.
One of the most intriguing moves of trade period happened right at the end.
Jaeger O’Meara heads to Fremantle to bolster the midfield, essentially taking David Mundy’s place. Through that lens it’s a clever move by the Dockers, signing a 28-year-old and still making the rotation younger by nine years.
In all seriousness though, while O’Meara will never be the player he was destined to be before his knee injuries, it’s not as if he’s a pale imitation of his youth. He can and will make Fremantle better.
His arrival gives Fremantle some interesting possibilities in how they structure their midfield.
Usually when a team acquires a player, the comments from the football department are well-meaning, but generic. ‘Happy to have him’, ‘can really add to what we do’, and so on.
This time, Fremantle’s Head of Player Personnel David Walls was open enough to (indirectly) show their hand on how O’Meara will be used:
“He’s also a great defensive midfielder, averaging five tackles a game, which is a trait we highly value in our midfield.”
If there are stats ready to roll, there’s a plan behind it. Everything points to O’Meara playing the unsung role in Fremantle’s on-ball rotation, getting his hands dirty to make teammates look pristine by comparison.
Semi-final images of Collingwood’s midfielders repeatedly strolling away untouched are probably imprinted in the brains of Fremantle’s coaching department, reiterating the need to strengthen that area of their game.
In 2022, Fremantle basically ran a four-man on-ball rotation: Andrew Brayshaw, Will Brodie, Caleb Serong and Mundy. It’s skinnier than other top teams, and that was before Mundy’s retirement.
With O’Meara coming in, Luke Jackson set to get minutes, hopefully a fit Nat Fyfe, and younger midfielders still developing, suddenly there’s enough in-game depth there to keep players fresh.
Playing the defensive role at contests minimises other midfielders’ ‘weaknesses’, relatively speaking. If O’Meara is in there at the same time as Jackson, does that allow Jackson to have a pure offensive focus? What about if it’s at the same time as Fyfe? Similar mindset?
With the extra midfield options, the sixth forward will probably turn into an extra midfielder in general play, also suiting O’Meara. He was pushed into that role from time to time at Hawthorn this year as they opted to get minutes into younger options. Now he’ll be capable of playing in a similar position at Fremantle, but this time for a higher goal.
O’Meara’s career has been so unlucky. For a model professional, valuable player and excellent teammate, it’s cruel to have only played in one losing final over 10 years.
Now he gets the chance to rectify that with a Fremantle side building strongly.
If you’ve missed any of the Free Agency & Trade Analysis posts, here’s where to catch up:
Karl Amon, Hawthorn
Josh Corbett, Fremantle
Tanner Bruhn, Geelong
Aaron Francis, Sydney | 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