The future of James Aish might remain uncertain but Brisbane AFL skipper Tom Rockliff says they have discovered the key to player retention weeks after sparking fears of another exodus.
Aish’s mooted move to Collingwood appears to have stalled despite Brisbane emerging on Monday as one of the most-active AFL clubs in the trade period.
The Lions picked up Carlton utility Tom Bell plus Geelong’s Josh Walker and Jarrad Jansen, however could not provide too much detail on Aish.
“Really, it’s in Collingwood’s hands,” Lions list manager Peter Schwab told Trade Radio on Monday.
“(But) what we don’t want to come out with is James Aish for a second-round pick.
“That won’t do it. He will go through (to the draft) if that is the case.”
The league’s trade period ends on Thursday.
Aish’s departure would follow that of Rockliff’s good mate Jack Redden to West Coast in an off-season trade.
When news that Redden wanted a trade broke last month, Rockliff admitted he feared another Lions player exodus.
Brisbane have tried to address the homesickness factor since five emerging players left in 2013.
They returned to their home states in the final days of that year’s AFL trade period, all but wiping out the 2010 and 2011 drafts for the rebuilding club.
But Rockliff has changed his tune since this month’s arrival of new player welfare boss and ex-Lions premiership player Craig Lambert.
“We are really settled off the field. Craig Lambert has been a great signing for the footy club,” Rockliff said on Monday.
“Through the welfare department and so on, there have been some big changes off the field.
“And with the players, we might have lost a couple but we have also gained a couple which is exciting.”
Lions CEO Greg Swann admitted success was the greatest way to keep players – something that had largely eluded Brisbane in recent seasons.
An injury-hit Lions missed out on the 2015 wooden spoon but registered just four wins for the season.
“Craig has come on board. We can address that (homesickness) issue,” Swann said.
“But if we are successful, that will make people want to stay.”
Bell, 24, was contracted at Carlton for next season but wanted to return home to Queensland to be with his father who is battling cancer.
Bell finished fourth in the club’s best-and-fairest in 2015 after a career-best season.
And Walker – who kicked 19 goals in 16 matches for the Cats this year – adds much-needed forward firepower for Brisbane.
Walker looked set to be squeezed out at Geelong by fit-again duo Nathan Vardy and Mitch Clark.