After being Paddy-whacked, the Adelaide Crows now want to do some bludgeoning of their own.
Resigned to losing Patrick Dangerfield, the Crows are set to become the first AFL club in history to match a free agency offer.
So they can squeeze out some more compensation. And appease a fan-base distraught at Dangerfield’s defection. And also avoid becoming known as soft AFL trade targets.
“We will now consider our options,” Adelaide’s chief executive Andrew Fagan said in a statement on Wednesday.
“However, our members and supporters should rest assured that in doing so, we will make decisions and take action that is in the best interests of our football club.”
The best interests of Fagan’s club is to match the offer for Dangerfield.
Tellingly, the Crows announced Dangerfield’s decision was to leave Adelaide and “return home to Victoria”.
The words were carefully chosen. No mention of Geelong, the frontrunners to secure the three-time All Australian.
The Crows and Cats are believed to be well down the road in trade talks – Wednesday’s announcement merely confirmed season-long suspicions that Dangerfield wants to play for Geelong, located near his family home at Moggs Creek.
But Adelaide’s broad statement deliberately keeps the door ajar for other suitors tempted to trump Geelong – hello Hawthorn, are you listening?
Fagan’s statement signals the beginning of an AFL test case. More than likely, it will end up with Dangerfield at Geelong.
But at what cost?
Dangerfield, 25, has spent eight years on Adelaide’s list, meaning he’s categorised as a restricted free agent.
By AFL definition “restricted free agents have the right to move to a club of their choice, subject to the current club’s right of first refusal over their services. That is, if the current club can `match’ the offer from a suitor club the player must stay or enter the draft”.
The Crows have two options.
One, don’t match the offer: Dangerfield walks (okay, flies first-class) to his chosen club and the AFL decide what compensation draft pick the Crows get – as it stands, pick 14 in the national draft.
Two, the Crows match the offer: Dangerfield can then decide to stay in Adelaide (no chance) or the two clubs try and do a deal (big chance).
That means his suitor will need to satisfy the Crows with something more than just pick 14 – Adelaide will come out with something extra, be it draft picks or players.
And all parties – the Crows, Dangerfield and his chosen club – will be hellbent on avoiding another scenario: they can’t agree on a trade deal and Dangerfield is forced into the national or pre-season draft.
That would leave Adelaide with nothing; the suitor having to beat off rivals with higher draft picks; and Dangerfield the prospect of playing at a club where he doesn’t want to be.