Gibbs, Ablett head home as AFL trades fall

Gary Ablett and Bryce Gibbs will head home, Jake Stringer will reboot his career and Fremantle will count their lucky stars after a frantic final day of AFL trade negotiations.

Ablett’s return to Kardinia Park was one of 12 deals signed off in the final hour before Thursday’s 2pm deadline.

All up, 28 players exchanged clubs – down from 38 last year – with virtually every trade hopeful granted their wish.

It appeared likely that one of Charlie Cameron, Josh Schache or Lachie Weller would be left stranded as the deadline drew close.

But deals for all three went through at the buzzer, with Gold Coast making the astonishing decision to accede to Fremantle’s ambitious demands and give up pick No.2 for Weller.

The 21-year-old had played just 47 games and only had a year remaining on his contract with the Dockers.

Cameron was dealt to Brisbane in exchange for pick No.12, while the Bulldogs secured a potential replacement for estranged forward Stringer in Lions youngster Schache.

The Lions also signed off on a long-anticipated trade for former Hawthorn skipper Luke Hodge, one of three No.1 draft picks to change clubs along with Gibbs and Jack Watts.

Carlton received two first-round draft picks in exchange for granting Gibbs a trade home to Adelaide on a four-year deal.

The Crows declared that the deal presented “much better value” than what was put forward 12 months ago when they refused to pay a similar price for the star midfielder.

An emotional Gibbs said it would be tough to leave after 11 years at Princes Park.

“Once it was a done deal, it sort of hit home a little bit for me,” he told reporters.

“I usually don’t get too emotional but it pulled on a couple of heart-strings and it all was a reality.

“I’ve been there for 11 years and it’s been my family, and I’ll be forever grateful for the Carlton footy club to give me the opportunity to play footy at the highest level.”

Like Gibbs, dual Brownlow Medallist Ablett also won a move back to his home state after unsuccessfully seeking a trade home last season.

The 33-year-old will combine with Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood in a blockbuster Geelong midfield next season as he seeks another premiership to crown his glorious AFL career.

Ablett’s two-year deal with the Cats was made official just days after the sudden death of his sister Natasha.

“Hearing that I will be returning home has brought both myself and my family some joy during what has been a difficult and painful time,” Ablett wrote on his Exclusive Insight website.

“I’m excited to return to where it all began and to get around the club and my new teammates in due time.”

Stringer was the last of three major signings to fall into place for Essendon, after Greater Western Sydney’s Devon Smith and Adam Saad from Gold Coast.

The Bombers landed Stringer in exchange for two second-round picks, with list manager Adrian Dodoro declaring it a great day for the club.

* All Offers and Promotions posted in this article excludes NSW residents.
Stay up to date with the latest sports news
Follow our social accounts to get exclusive content and all the latest sporting news!