The AFL trade period is yet to begin but it’s already shaping as something of a bust for Fremantle and West Coast.
The Eagles and Dockers will go into Monday’s trade talks with no hope of luring their two priority targets – Melbourne’s Jesse Hogan and Greater Western Sydney’s Rory Lobb – after the gun West Australians each signed contract extensions this week.
Hogan was the great white hope for a Fremantle side desperate to secure a quality key forward, while Lobb shaped as a ready-made replacement for injured Eagles ruckman Nic Naitanui.
While both Hogan and Lobb were motivated primarily by their prospects for success, the burden of flying interstate from Perth every second week during the season could have made a return home considerably less attractive.
Fremantle champion Matthew Pavlich famously racked up almost 860,000 kilometres of air travel during his decorated 353-game career, more than double the ks collected by North Melbourne 432-gamer Brent Harvey.
It’s little surprise then, given the mental and physical toll of the travel, that Pavlich is the sole WA-based representative out of the 77 footballers to have played 300 or more VFL/AFL games.
There are plenty of reasons why some trade bids don’t succeed, including onfield performance, issues with team culture or simply a failure to provide the right currency.
But the travel burden helps to explain why both Fremantle and West Coast have rarely secured trades for interstate players without roots in WA.
Former Brisbane on-baller Jack Redden and journeyman ruckman Jonathan Giles – each born in South Australia – are recent exceptions to the rule after joining the Eagles last year, while gun forward Josh Kennedy was born in Melbourne, grew up in WA and made his way to West Coast from Carlton as part of the Chris Judd trade in 2007.
Eagles recruits Lewis Jetta, Elliot Yeo, Sharrod Wellingham, Jamie Cripps and Josh Hill are all originally from WA, as is Freo midfielder Harley Bennell.
But, as shown by Hogan and Lobb’s decision to stay put, hometown ties aren’t always enough to secure trades.
Fremantle have also failed spectacularly in the past as they tried to prepare for life after Pavlich.
They chased several key position players to no avail, the list including then Sun, Charlie Dixon. Essendon’s Cale Hooker, Richmond’s Alex Rance and Geelong’s Harry Taylor.
West Coast have similarly come up short in their bid to lure coveted WA-born expansion club draftees Jaeger O’Meara, Stephen Coniglio and David Swallow.
“I think you’d be naive to think that the travel factor isn’t a consideration,” Dockers coach Ross Lyon said in 2014.
For both WA-based clubs, the best bets are players actively seeking a trade over the Nullarbor.
Fremantle are almost certain to recruit homesick Giants forward Cam McCarthy and Hawthorn’s Brad Hill, who is keen to play alongside brother Stephen, while the Eagles may throw a lifeline to Kangaroos veteran Drew Petrie, a former teammate of coach Adam Simpson and list manager Brady Rawlings.