Back in school we were all graded A-F and it set the path for our lives...well, not really but we were graded in any case. Let's use the grading method to assess how all AFL clubs did in the recently completed free agency and trading period.
Losing the second best player in the competition in his absolute prime is a no-win situation, and the Crows also lost Sam Kerridge. They gained a first round draft pick as well as Troy Menzel, Paul Seedsman, Kurtley Hampton and Dean Gore. Their fans have gone from watching a Foo Fighters concert to Friday night karaoke at their local pub. All things being equal, the Crows barely gain a pass mark.
Jack Redden and James Aish were always going to leave, and Matthew Leuenberger needed a fresh start after an injury ravaged career. The club would be livid at losing Aish, who rather than returning home has been lured by the bright lights at Collingwood. Brisbane are better off without him, as serviceable midfielders Tom Bell and Ryan Bastinac have walked the right way through a revolving door that hasn't been kind to the Lions of late. Still set for a barren 2016 but they are headed in the right direction if Justin Leppitsch can coach.
Three of their best 10 players left along with Chris Yarran who will take his front-running style to Punt Rd where he will have every chance to lose an elimination final. Bell is a huge loss but they bring in a decent amount of mid-range talent. This is still the least talented list in the AFL but with four picks in the first 19, Carlton have a small window in which to convince Patrick Cripps to stay. Brendon Bolton might lose more games in a month than he was used to losing in a year at Hawthorn, but the rebuild is alive and well and the Blues are definitely not coming.
Adam Treloar has allegedly had clean-up surgery the wrong way and arrived with the chance to take the next step to stardom in a midfield that looks significantly better but still one-paced. Jeremy Howe has successfully turned a sideshow skill into a highly-paid career but appears to be another Jamie Elliott. They have dealt away their key draft picks in the hope of those two recruits and Aish being difference makers, but you suspect Joffa might be keeping the gold jacket under wraps more often than not.
Losing Jake Carlisle seemed a massive blow, but the guy has shown glimpses of talent more than consistently producing the goods and his Snapchat skills make you think the Bombers might have dodged a huge bullet in moving him along. The supplements scandal looms large but assuming there are back-dated penalties they have done fantastically well in getting pick 25 for Jake Melksham and adding Matthew Leuenberger and Craig Bird on the cheap. The black cloud that was James Hird has been replaced by a clear, sunny day in the form of John Worsfold (insert chemist joke) and with two top 5 picks in the draft they are primed to rebound quickly.
Harley Bennell is a top 10 talent, but is also a troubled soul who is the biggest risk/reward gamble of this trade period. Cameron McCarthy is a middle of the road, young key forward who has shown signs of promise but one who was coveted by the Dockers, and instead of chucking in some steak knives they chose the path of stubbornness and chose not to pursue him. Matthew Pavlich seems set to retire, and goal kicking will remain a problem for a side who approaches 2016 with more question marks than any other team. Ross Lyon can make a huge statement by letting Bennell and Fyfe loose on the competition, but who will they kick to? Surely not the Pav?
Lachie Henderson is a solid citizen, Scott Selwood may well succumb to chronic ankle injuries and Zac Smith seems destined to be a career backup. But none of that matters when you get a mega-star, in his prime, who wants to come home. Dangerfield brings the class needed and while the Cats may have flown in the face of their culture they have done the right thing. Chris Scott's career coaching arrow is pointed straight down, but he is playing poker with one of the best hands and needs only a semi-decent flop to be made to look like a genius again like he was in 2011.
Maybe a bit harsh on the Suns, because while they were smashed on the Bennell trade they were hamstrung by the lack of bidders. They should have fought harder for Dixon, but at least got a decent return for him. Currie and Rosa figure to be fringe players and they have placed plenty of faith in what is shaping as a weak draft. The five year plan would have expected 2016 to be a special time, but they seem an injury or two away from another wasted year and they can't do anything about it. At least the culture should improve!
Greater Western Sydney...C-
Losing Treloar could not be avoided and they held out for as long as possible. They traded away plenty of mid-level players for an absolute plethora of picks who will more than likely run for the hills within 24 months. Steve Johnson will provide more than his fair share of highlights, and the young guns that remain have to start delivering in 2016 with the likes of Johnson, Callan Ward and Ryan Griffin leading them and Cam McCarthy trying to remain interested for another 12 months.
Jack Fitzpatrick was cut by Melbourne, which would be enough to drive a man to drink. Hawthorn picked him up and he is odds-on to lead their ruck in the 2016 Grand Final as they waltz to yet another flag. They lost a three-time premiership player who was a fringe performer and a young talent, but managed to secure two first-round picks. It is becoming how boring how good they are, and we will need to hope Luke Hodge or Al Clarkson can continue to give us some off-field entertainment in lieu of them losing a big game.
The players they have added are ho-hum, but to get picks 3 and 7 was a masterstroke. Being Melbourne, they are likely to find a way to turn them into Jimmy Toumpas and Cale Morton but assuming they draft well, the future is very bright for Simon Goodwin. Paul Roos has 12 more months to continue to change the culture, or blame it every time something goes wrong and will leave a list chock full of high draft picks and with high hopes for success.
Consecutive preliminary finals appearances from the bottom half of the eight indicates the Roos have the perfect balance between wins during the season and peaking at finals time. Jed Anderson looks likely to slot straight in to a team whose premiership window is closing. Add the fact that their best player is older than time itself and has seen eight Prime Ministers and the Roos need to get the mix right or risk a decent amount of time in the AFL abyss
Charlie Dixon is as naturally talented as any young player in the competition. Jimmy Toumpas was an early draft pick and must have more going for him than what we have seen in his career thus far. Maybe he just needs to be de-Melbournised? We are yet to know whether the real Port is 2014 or 2015 but they have more talent than most and could well defy their putrid song and fly back up the ladder in 2015. It would surprise no-one if Toumpas became a star because hey, he has escaped from Melbourne!
Three consecutive elimination final losses means that a finals win should be a must in 2015, but word is that Damian Hardwick can keep his job if he hits his cliché KPI. The acquisitions of Jacob Townsend and Chris Yarran are for players who can contribute immediately, but there would be concerns on the quality of the incoming players. The good thing is that they gave up very little to bring in two first 18 players and their window is open...but can they fit through it?
Before the "Carlisle Video" emerged the Saints were looking at a solid A. But the alarm bells are ringing at a club that has had it problems in recent times. Nathan Freeman is yet to play an AFL game but still demanded a trade away from Collingwood; his body has let him down but he has very little rope and must perform at the Saints. Carlisle was worth the punt but the leadership group will want to ensure he is on the straight and narrow and that the decision not turn into a "Stephen Milne bounce in the 2011 Grand Final" moment.
Callum Sinclair played well for the West Coast Eagles but has all the qualities of a career backup. The Eagles were decimated at centre clearances when he was rucking and his finals performances were horrid. Michael Talia is a solid backman, but will need to resist the urge to text his brother ahead of Crows-Swans clashes. Their trade ban puts them in a tough spot but the additions were underwhelming.
The Grand Final was an embarrassment and many questions will not be answered until next September. Two glaring weaknesses are a hard-bodied inside midfielder and an outside runner and they were able to get both at a very cheap price. Jonathan Giles could well push to be the backup ruckman, but it won't be a huge loss if he flops. Tinkering was the name of the game at the Eagles, and time will tell whether they become the 2016 version of this season's Port Adelaide.
The lack of action was interesting; while this is a very talented young list there is a gaping hole in the mid-range that could have been filled. Suckling is a handy addition who will suit the Dogs game style, and the brains-trust must trust that their list is sorted and ready for a charge at the flag. There seems to be a small window now and another one in a few years so Boyd, Morris and Murphy would have rightly expected a bit more action.