Adelaide have vowed to fight for fair compensation for Patrick Dangerfield by becoming the first AFL club to match a free agency offer.
Dangerfield on Wednesday told Crows players he was leaving Adelaide, confirming season-long suspicions he wanted to play for Geelong from next season.
The Cats refused to comment despite reports they had offered the brilliant midfielder a six-year deal worth $4.8 million.
The Crows will match that offer under restricted free agency rules, forcing Geelong to strike a trade deal for the triple All Australian midfielder.
“You can assume that,” Adelaide powerbroker and football director Mark Ricciuto said.
Adelaide said Dangerfield had cited personal reasons for seeking a return home to Victoria – but pointedly did not name Geelong, keeping the door ajar for possible trumping offers from cashed-up Melbourne clubs.
The long-expected defection of Dangerfield, who was born at Moggs Creek near Geelong, came as he joined Crows players and coaches at an inner-city hotel in Adelaide for an end-of-season function.
The 25-year-old did not publicly comment after Crows chief executive Andrew Fagan released a statement confirming Dangerfield’s decision.
“Whilst disappointing, we understand that Patrick’s decision has been made for personal reasons,” Fagan said in the statement.
“We will now consider our options. 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.”
Crows great Ricciuto said the current free agency compensation system was unfair.
“I don’t agree with the way the compensation is,” he told Triple M radio.
“But the club will fight as hard as they possibly can to get the best possible deal.”
If Adelaide do not match the offer, the AFL will decide a compensation draft pick for losing Dangerfield.
Currently, that is pick 14 – compensation the Crows deem insufficient for a player of Dangerfield’s elite status.
“There’s so many different things that could happen … it’s certainly not straightforward,” Ricciuto said.
“It’s a bit of a game of chess in some ways. It doesn’t have to be if they want to do the deal straight up.”
Geelong can’t officially table an offer for Dangerfield until October 9, when the free agency period begins.
Adelaide then have three days to match the offer, before the official trade period starts on October 12.