Free agency, trades, draft: Every AFL club's list needs ahead of 2021

The footy world never stops, and while Richmond are still celebrating their remarkable 2020 AFL Grand Final victory, most clubs have had their eyes firmly on 2021 for many weeks. ESPN expert Chris Doerre has taken a look at every club's list needs and come up with some trade and free agency moves to look out for.


List needs:

  1. Ball-winning midfielder

  2. Outside midfielder

  3. General defence

Draft Picks: 1,8,20,29,44,50,60,74

Who should they target?

Adelaide have the opportunity to go with an all-South Australian theme during the trade and free agency period by trading for Jackson Hately, Alex Neal-Bullen and Matthew Scharenberg to fill list needs and add to their best 22.

GWS' Hately has requested a trade to Adelaide and is a plug-and-play midfielder who was forced, during limited senior opportunities, to play an outside role for the Giants due to their glut of midfielders. With increased opportunity and a prominent midfield role, Hately's output should skyrocket.

Scharenberg has had a wretched run with injury during his years for Collingwood but when he has been selected, he has proven a capable interceptor and user of the footy. Touted as a future leader during his early years, if he can remain injury free, he has the scope to be a piece and as a delisted free agent is a no cost addition.

With the feeling in the industry that Neal-Bullen is available despite having one more year to go on his contract, and Adelaide lacking outside run, he could slot straight in on a wing and play a role.

With pick No. 1, it's a no-brainer that Adelaide should bid on key forward Jamarra Ugle-Hagan. If the Western Bulldogs match bids, Logan McDonald is the next best alternative and the other potentially generational key forward in this draft.


List needs:

  1. Key forward

  2. Medium marking forward

  3. Outside speed

Draft Picks: 16,17,38,64,80,88

Who should they target?

The missing ingredient for Brisbane is a star key forward. Joe Daniher has requested a move to Brisbane to get out of Victoria and it's perfect timing for this contending club needing a high-quality key forward. If Daniher can stay healthy, he will be a difference maker for Brisbane and reduce the goal kicking load on their smaller forwards.

Poorly utilised these past two seasons, Josh Caddy has been forced to play out of position. If Caddy is allowed to play as he did in 2018 -- as a medium marking forward inside-50m who pushes through the midfield for brief stints -- he can be a great option with his one-on-one marking inside 50m and power that can cause opposition defences headaches. Brisbane are a club that can offer Caddy this opportunity and alongside Charlie Cameron, Daniher and Cameron Rayner ,could form one of the most formidable inside 50m combinations in the competition.

Falling out of favour for the Eagles in 2020, Lewis Jetta would be a low-cost addition who can provide outside speed and spark, to an outside group that is short a speedster.

Through their Academy, while Brisbane have access to other prospects, Blake Coleman is the one they must add. The younger brother of Keidean Coleman, Blake is arguably more advanced for the same age and stage, looming as another possible pressure forward for the future.


List needs:

  1. General forward

  2. General defender

  3. Midfield quality

Draft Picks: 7,27,45,81

Who should they target?

Dropped several times this year for a total of three games due to inconsistency and below expectation forward pressure, Alex Sexton is one of the premier goalkicking forwards in the competition. With Carlton's front half filled with capable key forwards, if Sexton can be pried away from Gold Coast, he would add a much-needed complement and balance to Carlton's front half.

With Adam Saad demanding a trade to Carlton, he will provide a great boost to Carlton's defence as one of the competition's premier rebounding defenders.

While sensational in defence, Carlton are targeting Giants dasher Zac Williams with the view to move him into the midfield with Patrick Cripps and Sam Walsh requiring additional support. With the signs Williams has shown as a ball winner in the few games he has been thrust into the Giants' midfield, there is little reason to doubt he can be a star through there for the Blues.

If Fremantle let David Mundy go, Carlton would be wise to target him as a veteran midfielder who continues to play high quality football. He can take some of the midfield load off Cripps while adding veteran leadership and someone who can help with developing the young midfield talent around him as he did so successfully for Fremantle this season.


List needs:

  1. Midfield youth

  2. Key position players

  3. Crumbing/pressure forward

Draft Picks: 14,35,37,69,86

Who should they target?

If Collingwood are able to trade Adam Treloar to Gold Coast for pick 5, midfielder Will Phillips would be a perfect fit at the draft, if available. This year's premier midfielder, Phillips is a Round 1-ready midfielder who with his ball winning capabilities and burst out of stoppages would add much needed youth to an ageing midfield. Collingwood may have the opportunity in trade negotiations to add underutilised ball-winning midfielder Will Brodie as a sweetener, who would add much needed size around stoppages.

The competition's only key defender to rate elite in 2018 for marks, intercept marks and intercept possessions, while managing an unbelievable defensive one-on-one loss rate of just 12 percent was Aliir Aliir, and he has been poorly utilised these past two seasons in being asked to spend time in the ruck. If Aliir becomes available during the trade period, he'd be an ideal target for Collingwood. This would allow Darcy Moore to shift into a relieving ruck role and would provide him the freedom to spend more of his time either playing as a tall wing or key forward, where arguably his impact may be even greater.

Having long lacked a speedy crumbing forward who can provide heavily forward pressure, Jarrod Cameron appears to have fallen out for favour for West Coast and would be a perfect list fit and complement to the club's small and medium marking forwards. With West Coast looking to add Zac Langdon as an alternative small pressure forward and with West Coast's competition for front half spots high, this is a career move for Cameron that would maximise his chances for senior selection.

Reef McInnes is someone the club must match bids on as he's part of Collingwood's next-generation academy and is a tall but versatile midfielder with significant scope to develop.


List needs:

  1. Midfielders

  2. Key position players

  3. Rebounding defender

Draft Picks: 6,42,61,67,72,79

Who should they target?

With Josh Dunkley part of an overcrowded Western Bulldogs midfield and not receiving the midfield minutes he would have liked this year due to the ascension of Bailey Smith, his best career option is moving on to a club where he can be a featured ball winner. Essendon have long needed a strong-bodied midfielder and would be able to maximise his play as the club's primary ball winner. Jye Caldwell, who has requested a trade to Essendon, is a second midfield the Dons would benefit from adding as an explosive midfielder with excellent contested ball winning capabilities in his own right.

With salary cap space to burn, Essendon are an ideal landing spot for Tom McDonald who, while capable as a key forward, would be even better suited as a key defender. McDonald in 2015 and 2016 before switching forward was one of the competition's premier key defenders and rated elite as an interceptor and rebounder by position.

Earning only one senior game in 2020 for Geelong, 31-year-old key forward Josh Jenkins is an immediate fix key forward who can directly replace Joe Daniher. With Jenkins averaging two or more goals per game from 2014-2019, he's a more than proven avenue towards goal and such a move would be a return to where his AFL journey started.

Forgotten Saint Jimmy Webster would be an ideal low-cost addition in defence if St Kilda make him available and don't trade him to Adelaide. If Webster can stay healthy, he can make up for some of the rebound lost following the retirement of Conor McKenna and expected trade of Adam Saad.


List needs:

  1. Outside midfield

  2. Rotation forward/midfielder

  3. Ball winning midfielder

Draft Picks: 6,42,61,67,72,79

Who should they target?

With Fremantle lacking outside run, Tom Phillips, who already has a relationship with Justin Longmuir, is a straightforward fit as an elite endurance runner and impressive accumulator. Phillips is a low cost, plug-and-play piece who can slot straight into the Dockers' best side and fill the hole left following the departure of Bradley Hill.

Falling out of favour for the Suns in 2020, Darcy MacPherson was solid in 2019 and during the 2020 preseason. An underutilised piece this season, MacPherson could be used across half-forward for his forward pressure and rotate through the midfield.

While Fremantle's midfield is starting to take substantial steps forward with the ascension of Andrew Brayshaw, Adam Cerra and addition of Caleb Serong, with Nat Fyfe turning 30 next year and David Mundy not certain to return, further support is needed. Angus Brayshaw, who has been arguably played out of position at Melbourne, would benefit from playing a more prominent role and Fremantle's midfield should be able to accommodate.

The bonus for Fremantle is through the draft next-generation academy prospects Brandon Walker and Joel Western are well worth nominating and can add missing ingredients. Walker with his drive off half-back and Western as a small but speedy midfielder.


List needs:

  1. Key forward

  2. Outside run

  3. Versatile midfielder

Draft Picks: 11,13,18,34,90

Who should they target?

With Jeremy Cameron deciding he wants to play for Geelong in 2021, the front half will receive a substantial boost. A Tom Hawkins/Cameron combination is likely to be the best key forward combination in the competition if Father Time doesn't catch up to Hawkins next season.

Inexplicably dropped by North Melbourne in 2020, Jared Polec is believed to be of interest to the Cats if they miss out on Isaac Smith, and he would add much needed outside drive and class.

Looking to join Geelong, Shaun Higgins is a further immediate piece Geelong should add this offseason with a view towards improving their best 22 and winning now while their premiership window is still open.

Gold Coast

List needs:

  1. Star midfielder

  2. General defender

  3. Key forward/ruck

Draft Picks: 5,24,33,70,78

Who should they target?

With Collingwood looking to trade Adam Treloar in order to clear salary cap space, the Suns have a great opportunity to take advantage of the chance to trade for a star. Treloar, if traded, would give the Suns a substantial midfield boost, adding finals experience, elite ball winning and accumulation.

While Essendon will be reluctant to let him go given the retirement of Conor McKenna and the trade request from Adam Saad, Martin Gleeson is an unrestricted free agent and can exercise his right to move on and would be a sage pickup.

Callum Coleman-Jones, who is on the outer at Richmond, is a ready-to-go key forward/ruckman who would add a contested marking force for the team that trades for him. If the Suns were to add Coleman-Jones, he would complement Jarrod Witts and Ben King nicely.

Thanks to the AFL's draft concessions, the Suns will be able to add Gold Coast Academy tall midfielder Alex Davies and Northern Territory athletic utility Joel Jeffrey without the use of draft picks. Had they been part of the draft pool, they may both have attracted bids inside the first round.


List needs:

  1. Ruck

  2. Rebounding defender

  3. Outside midfield

Draft Picks: 40,46,68,82

Who should they target?

With Sam Jacobs retiring, Braydon Preuss -- who has nominated the Giants as his club of choice -- will be a welcome addition. Under the tutelage of Shane Mumford, Preuss will have no better example from whom to learn the art of throwing his body around and impacting contests with his size and physicality.

With Heath Shaw delisted and Zac Williams set to join Carlton, Lion Alex Witherden is a dashing defender the Giants would be wise to target as someone able to add much needed drive to a weakened defence.

While Fremantle are super keen to trade for Geelong's Jordan Clark, the Giants may be in the box seat if they ask for him. Clark should be available after just three senior games in 2020 as a component to a Jeremy Cameron trade. Clark is a player on the outside the Giants have been long screaming out for, as someone who can generate meaningful drive for a team lacking players willing to take risks and move the ball aggressively on the outside.


List needs:

  1. Key defender

  2. Stoppage specialist

  3. Utility

Draft Picks: 4,21,41,43,59,66,77

Who should they target?

With James Frawley retiring, Kyle Hartigan is set to join Hawthorn through free agency and will help replenish the club's key defence stocks as a sufficient short-term fix.

On the outer at Geelong, Charlie Constable is a tall midfielder who is ready to impact games and play regular football for a team looking for a further ball winner through the midfield. With Hawthorn finishing 18th for the second successive seasons in clearances, Constable would add to a midfield rotation in need of additional size and comes with the added bonus of being able to rotate into defence where he can set up play with his skills and vision.

Earning Champion Data's highest relative rating across the competition in 2019 after going undrafted, Sydney Stack offers significant value on the football field. Spending time in 2019 in defence before shifting forward, despite playing most of his junior football through the midfield, Stack is a true utility and if following his off-field incident becomes available, could be an under-priced recruit.

Next-generation academy midfielder Connor Downie is a must-get for the Hawks through the draft. With speed, agility, a damaging 55m kick and leadership credentials, Downie is a logical long-term fit on a wing for the Hawks.


List needs:

  1. Key forward

  2. Midfield speed

  3. Outside run

Draft Picks: 23,47,62,63,83

Who should they target?

Following a down year, now is a 'buy low and profit 'opportunity for the club that trades for Ben Brown. Kicking 60+ goals each year from 2017-2019 and not dropping below 22 games from 2015-2019, Brown is a model of consistency. If his body is right, he can provide Melbourne with the No. 1 inside-50m option they have lacked since Jesse Hogan was traded away.

With Melbourne offering Isaac Smith a three-year contract, the Demons are the frontrunners for acquiring Smith's services during free agency. Smith would add much needed outside speed and contribute further towards balancing Melbourne list.

With a lack of speed and offensive nous through the midfield, Melbourne would benefit from adding Aaron Hall for a year or two. With Melbourne's midfield mostly one-paced, Hall would provide a complementary and contrasting player to a midfield screaming for pace and hurt factor.

North Melbourne

List needs:

  1. Outside run

  2. General defender

  3. Key defender

Draft Picks: 2,9,25,57,65,75

Who should they target?

With a lack of outside speed following a series of delistings, Wil Powell is one of North Melbourne's primary offseason targets. If a trade can be facilitated, Powell would figure prominently on the outside and inject much needed excitement to a team looking to add more capable youth.

With a thin defence following the delisting's of Jasper Pittard, Marley Williams and Jamie MacMillan, Dylan Roberton is a forgotten defender who could provide a short-term solution.

Needing another key defender following the delistings of Majak Daw and Sam Durdin, with a trade of Robbie Tarrant also possible, Aidan Corr is North Melbourne's prime target. The club have a view towards having him perform the role as the club's primary stopper.

Port Adelaide

List needs:

  1. Key defender

  2. Small forward

  3. Versatile midfielder

Draft Picks: 26,31,39,51,53,89

Who should they target?

With Port Adelaide's defence undersized, while contracted for another year, Robbie Tarrant would be a welcome and perfect list fit if he is open to being traded to the Power.

Orazio Fantasia has requested a trade to Port and, if he can stay healthy, will add much needed goalkicking power as a small forward to a front half that has long relied on midfielders to complement their key forwards.

Toby McLean fell down the pecking order at the Western Bulldogs and played just 12 senior games in 2020. He is unlikely to reclaim regular midfield minutes due to the sheer depth of quality midfielders the Dogs have despite playing his best football in 2018 when he received midfield opportunities. While contracted for another two years, if McLean was to agreeable to a trade to Port Adelaide, he would add contrast to their midfield while being able to split his time between the midfield and front half.

The bonus for Port Adelaide this offseason is next-generation academy defender Lachlan Jones. Jones is Round 1-ready and proved this year in the SANFL at League level that he has the strength and power to negate the influence of opposition forwards while having an impressive long kick on him.


List needs:

  1. Outside midfield

  2. Rotational forward/midfielder

  3. Young key position player

Draft Picks: 19,32,55,73,91

Who should they target?

Needing more in the way of quality outside midfielders, Jack Sinclair -- who was unable to break into the Saints' best team until Round 8 -- would be a perfect stylistic fit as one of the competition's best pressure players by position. A well-rounded outside midfielder, Sinclair is on the edge of selection for the Saints and may be available at the right price.

Sticking with the stylistic fit and focus on forward pressure, Lachlan Fogarty, who has been unable to earn regular senior opportunities for Geelong, is available. Chosen for only eight games over the past two seasons, Fogarty is an undervalued player who would fit Richmond's system seamlessly.

Having grown frustrated with West Coast for not receiving regular senior games, Jarrod Brander brings something unique to the table as a key position player with the versatility to play at either end or as a tall wing. With ageing key position players at either end and room in the interim on a wing to play a role, Brander can be a low-cost but capable tall addition for Richmond.

The essential addition for Richmond through the draft is talented pressure forward Maurice Rioli Jr as a father-son selection. The son of Maurice Snr is the premier pressure forward in this draft and is regularly found providing second, third and fourth efforts inside-50m.

St Kilda

List needs:

  1. Star inside midfielder

  2. Inside midfield speed

  3. Key forward

Draft Picks: 15,58,71,87

Who should they target?

With Jack Steele needing greater midfield support, Brad Crouch is set to join St Kilda and provide the midfield with a much-needed boost.

There were preseason reports of Riley Collier-Dawkins pushing Trent Cotchin around at stoppages, and in 2019 the athletic 190cm midfielder aimed to play at least one senior game but has instead has gone a second season without the opportunity to prove himself at the highest level. Sure to be frustrated by the lack of opportunity, St Kilda, with limited midfield speed and a midfield thin on quality, are a side able to offer Collier-Dawkins immediate senior opportunities.

With Max King the No. 1 option inside-50m, Peter Wright would be an ideal target for the Saints as a key forward who performs best leading up the ground. The bonus with Wright is once Paddy Ryder retires, he can provide relieving ruck minutes behind Rowan Marshall.


List needs:

  1. Inside midfield

  2. Key forward

  3. Key defender

Draft Picks: 3,22,52,56,76

Who should they target?

Selected for just seven senior games this season, having seen his number of games played decline each year with the Blues, Matthew Kennedy is an underappreciated player who from limited opportunity had somewhat a breakout year. Kennedy could be targeted with a view towards succeeding Josh Kennedy as a big bodied midfielder. As a strong contested ball winner who can rest forward of centre, Carlton's Kennedy is good enough to slot straight into the Swans' midfield.

The Swans have a history of targeting big name key forwards and Jesse Hogan -- while out of favour -- would continue that tradition. With Lance Franklin unable to play a senior game in 2020 and appearing to be on his final legs, Hogan is a possible low-cost solution.

While St Kilda planning to retain Jake Carlisle, if a rival club were to offer a longer deal and provide him with a greater sense of job security, there could be opportunity to add the experienced key defender. With Sydney's key defenders uninspiring, Carlisle can provide a low-cost immediate upgrade.

While outside of Sydney's most pressing needs, it is likely that Sydney match bids on Academy prospects Braeden Campbell and Errol Gulden. The pair will add versatility and class to Sydney's developing young core.

West Coast

List needs:

  1. General defender

  2. Key defender

  3. Pressure forward

Draft Picks: 30,49,54,85

Who should they target?

With a thin defence and the need for an immediate boost, Shane Savage would provide a low-cost plug-and-play defender who can generate meaningful drive from defence.

With the retirement of Will Schofield, delisted free agent Majak Daw would be a cohesive fit the Eagles should consider as a plug-and-play key defender. Daw, like Schofield, can complement Jeremy McGovern and Tom Barrass as a stopper and allow the pair to focus on intercepting.

With the Eagles looking to find a small forward to complement their tall and medium marking targets, Western Australian Zac Langdon would add a lot in the way of forward pressure to an otherwise potent forward mix.

Western Bulldogs

List needs:

  1. Ruck

  2. Key defender

  3. Crumbing forward

Draft Picks: 12,36,48,84

Who should they target?

Lacking a premier key defender, Daniel Talia is an ideal fit as a key defender if he can be acquired during the trade period. The addition of Talia would allow Alex Keath great freedom and flexibility to intercept as he does best, with the bonus being the pair already have chemistry from their time together in Adelaide.

With Tim English uncompetitive through the ruck and arguably better suited either on a wing or as a key position player, Todd Goldstein would provide the Dogs with a meaningful upgrade and give the club's star studded midfield with first use - if he can be persuaded to leave North Melbourne.

With the Western Bulldogs lacking a crumbing forward who specialises in applying forward pressure, Jack Lonie is a player who could fit the bill. If the Dogs offer Lonie a multiyear deal, he would be more attracted to that than the one year deal the Saints are presenting him with presently.

The bonus for the Dogs in this draft is their first access to next-generation academy prospect Jamarra Ugle-Hagan. Expect Jamarra to become a regular in season one and create the most formidable key forward combination in the competition alongside Aaron Naughton once they have played together for a few years.