Which out-of-contract player can your club least afford to lose at the end of the 2023 season?
Each club has a raft of players without contracts for 2024, and while many are simply on one-year deals, there are big names littered throughout the competition that rival clubs will hope to lure away from their current homes.
Check out which off-contract player your club will be most desperate to lock away before the headlines come later in the season.
Adelaide will be sweating on Tom Doedee’s signature with the 25-year-old a restricted free agent at the end of the season.
The intercept defender has put contract talks on hold as he recovers from shoulder surgery.
One of the club’s best players, Doedee could enter the frame to take the captaincy reins if Rory Sloane steps aside.
Now entering the prime of his career with 71 senior games under his belt, rival clubs would certainly be interested in Doedee’s services if he tested the open market.
While he hails from the Geelong Falcons, there’s no talk yet linking Doedee with a move away from West Lakes.
Deven Robertson would understandably be concerned about his job security at the Lions, stuck behind some of the best midfielders in the competition.
But Brisbane would be equally worried if the 2019 first round pick doesn’t put pen to paper early in the season.
Robertson has done his apprenticeship at the Lions and entering his fourth season at the top level, would be hoping to force his way into Brisbane’s best 22.
However, he’ll now find himself even further down the pecking order after the recruitment of Josh Dunkley and the addition of star junior Will Ashcroft (as well as fellow father-son Jaspa Fletcher).
The Lions trusted Robertson at the pointy end of the season last year when the 21-year-old played in the club’s three finals, but this is the year for him to play regular footy.
In last year’s trade period, Brisbane list manager Dom Ambrogio said of Robertson: “We’re really keen to retain him because we think he’s got a very bright future for us”.
Robertson is also from Perth and was reportedly pursued by the Eagles last year.
Tom De Koning
Likely the poster boy for this article, Tom De Koning looms as one of the more interesting out-of-contract players in 2023.
His ceiling appears to be enormous, though he is yet to even cement himself as Carlton’s number one ruckman, or show he can play as a key forward. 2023 will be enormous for him in that regard as he puts off contract talks to prove himself worthy of a big pay day – and rightly so.
Clubs will come running for him, with Kane Cornes naming five in particular who should chase his signature. The question for the Blues will be whether they fork out to keep the ruckman given how many key players they have already re-signed and given how many cheaper rucks are usually on the market.
Mitch McGovern is another in a contract year who is arguably more important to the Blues structurally. He will need to put a full season together first, however, before his value can be determined.
Collingwood will be thrilled with how their contracts are looking ahead of the 2023 season with no big names coming off contract after Jack Crisp extended before Christmas.
While the likes of Scott Pendlebury and Jeremy Howe do come off contract, given their age you’d expect them to continue inking one-year extensions until they retire.
That leaves Noble, who is off contract but has been a best 22 lock effectively since being taken in the 2019 mid-season draft.
The club will hope to re-sign the 25-year-old on a multi-year deal but won’t be desperate for his commitment as they were with the likes of Darcy Moore, Jordan De Goey and Brayden Maynard last season.
Darcy Parish is one of the most high-profile players out of contract in 2023 and is eligible for free agency at the end of the season.
Despite playing 16 games last season, Parish is still one of Essendon’s most important players and at his best is a damaging high-possession winner.
The club is currently undergoing a period of change and the 25-year-old’s decision could largely rest on how the Bombers perform under new coach Brad Scott this year.
Parish’s signature will become a big talking point in footy circles this year, with plenty of clubs expected to come knocking if the Bombers do not lock him away early.
Midfielder Will Brodie starred for Fremantle in 2022 after crossing from the Suns.
The contract the Dockers absorbed was lengthened until the end of 2023 but he is yet to sign on beyond this year.
He slid seamlessly into the Dockers’ midfield, averaging just under 27 disposals and almost six clearances, and forming a formidable trio with Andrew Brayshaw and Caleb Serong.
While Brodie is unlikely to move on anytime soon having only just arrived from the Gold Coast, Freo would be keen to lock him away for the foreseeable future.
At 24, he is entering the prime of his career and if he starts the 2023 season in last year’s form, then his signature will certainly become a priority.
Talented youngster Liam Henry is also out of contract this year and as a former no.9 draft pick, the Dockers will be keen to take him off the market.
Mark Blicavs, Tom Hawkins, Isaac Smith and a number of other best 22 players are all out of contract in 2023. However, none appear even remotely interested in leaving and will likely only re-sign later in the year.
If Brad Close is yet to give an indication by mid-year, the Geelong hierarchy will be nervous.
2023 will mark the year Close signs his first substantial contract with the club after underlying his importance in a premiership year.
The 24-year-old played 22 games as a connector between the midfield and forward and was pivotal in plenty of scores for Geelong with his creativity and hard running.
Close is a South Australian and could be tempted home should he not be rewarded with a significant contract raise.
Meanwhile, Esava Ratugloea is out of contract at the end of 2023, meaning there will be little standing in his way if he again seeks a trade out of Geelong.
The utility is seen as the long-term long ruck option for Geelong but is currently stuck behind the combination of Rhys Stanley and Blicavs.
Jeremy Sharp was reportedly quite keen to get to Fremantle in last year’s trade period, but given he was contracted for 2023 the Suns rightly held firm and wouldn’t release him cheaply.
However, the 21-year-old from East Fremantle is out of contract at the end of the year and will be once again in hot demand.
He played 12 games in 2022, mostly in the back-half of the year, and looked good as an outside midfielder with run and carry.
A strong year from Sharp would have the Dockers and Eagles once again all over his services and Gold Coast fans will be hoping another year in Queensland convinces him to stick around.
One of the most intriguing out-of-contract players as we head into the new season, Harry Himmelberg is clearly the biggest name set to come off GWS’ books at year’s end.
2022 was a career season for the Giant, averaging a touch under 18 disposals per game and finishing fourth in the club’s best and fairest.
A move to defence last season saw Himmelberg star for his squad, becoming the Giants’ prime interceptor and distributor off half-back, adding a new dimension to his game.
With Himmelberg hailing from New South Wales, the vaunted ‘go-home factor’ won’t bite GWS once again, however there will undoubtedly plenty of clubs attempting to poach the versatile swingman.
While Himmelberg is currently back training up forward, the Giants can ill-afford to lose a player who can consistently impact a game at either end of the field.
Hawthorn has a stack of players coming out of contract this year.
Both veterans and young stars will be hoping for career-best seasons as they look to add a few more zeros to the end of their contracts.
Arguably Hawthorn’s most exciting young prospect is Will Day, a youngster that battled injury last year but looks primed for a big 2023.
Day has been one of the Hawks’ brightest stars since making his debut in 2020, with the smart and tough defender showing great composure off half-back and in the midfield.
Given his ability to play in a variety of positions and the fact that he’s proven he has the potential to be an elite AFL player, Day’s signature will be one the Hawks will be desperate to get.
Sam Mitchell’s side has made it clear that they’re in a deep rebuild phase and a player like Day is someone you can bank on playing 200 games for your club.
There are certainly a few clubs that could do with Day and will be showing interest at some point this season.
Melbourne will be doing everything they can to keep Kysaiah Pickett in red and blue beyond 2023.
After losing young star Luke Jackson to Fremantle last off-season, the Dees would hate to lose another former first-round pick with the small forward coming off-contract.
Chat surrounding a potential departure for the 21-year-old has already begun after he received plenty of interest from Port Adelaide last season.
While it’s understood the premiership player is happy at the Demons, the club will be made to sweat until he signs on the dotted line.
Apart from Pickett, Steven May is a key re-signing for the club but you’d expect the star defender to stay put after originally requesting a trade to Victoria from Gold Coast in 2018.
North Melbourne simply must lock the key defender away for at least the next few years.
If the Kangaroos are to rebuild and climb their way back up the ladder, McKay has to be a central figure in the backline.
He is at the age (25), experience (52 games) and ability where rival clubs will be keen on luring him away from Arden Street.
McKay’s is a signature that North just needs to secure for the good of the club.
With Charlie Dixon nearing the end of his career, Western Australian-born Mitch Georgiades looms as his replacement.
The 21-year-old has shown plenty of promise despite being at the Power for only a few years, kicking 23 goals in 2022.
Georgiades’ signature is crucial for a Port Adelaide side somewhat in transition. Ever since he was drafted, there’s always been talk of him moving back to WA and there’s no doubt both Fremantle and West Coast will be circling.
Georgiades is primed to take another step in 2023, which will only raise the stakes for his signature as the season unfolds.
The Tigers have a strong list of out-of-contract players in 2023.
Some of those are veterans such as Trent Cotchin and Jack Riewoldt, who are coming to the end, while others include co-captains Dylan Grimes and Toby Nankervis, who are going nowhere.
The name that jumps off the page is that of Noah Balta.
The 23-year-old is emerging as a key member of Richmond’s defence and will soon be the main man down back.
His athleticism also allows Damien Hardwick to use him up forward, as a pinch-hit in the ruck or even in a free-roaming role where he can put use his booming boot to good use.
Balta will no doubt attract interest from rival clubs if he starts the 2023 season well.
The club could also do worse than tie down defender Nathan Broad, who has been in career-best form, while the signatures of hard-working wingers Kamdyn McIntosh and Marlion Pickett and talented youngster Hugo Ralphsmith would also be handy.
St Kilda will be keen as mustard to sign Jade Gresham.
At his best, Gresham is one of most exciting players in the game. His ability to break lines and kick goals makes him a player you don’t just want, but a player you need on your list.
The 25-year-old has been crippled with injuries the past few years but looks primed for a big 2023, and don’t the Saints need him!
The club is currently going through a period of change under new coach Ross Lyon and players like Gresham, with the X-factor he possesses, are the type you need on your list.
Along with Gresham, St Kilda would be keen to sign young star Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera by the end of the year.
Taken with pick 7 in the 2021 draft, Wanganeen-Milera showed last year that he’s made for the AFL and with the skills he brings, the Saints need him on their list for many years to come.
Dylan Stephens had a breakout year for the Swans in 2022, becoming a regular in the side and playing across the finals series.
The former top-five draft pick played 15 games, up from 15 total across the previous two seasons.
Stephens impressed as an outside midfielder who covers the ground well and is a good kick of the footy.
The South Australian youngster was linked with a trade in 2021 given he couldn’t break into the side, but will he be more eager to recommit following a strong 2022? It will obviously depend in part on how 2023 unfolds.
Adelaide asked the question of him in 2021 and certainly will again at the end of the season, if Stephens remains unsigned at the Swans.
Jack Petruccelle will be hoping to up his contract value in 2023.
Currently unsigned beyond the end of the year, Petruccelle is coming off an injury-interrupted season where he managed just eight games.
At 23 and five seasons into his career at the Eagles, Petruccelle is yet to put forward his best footy on a consistent basis. But the athletic forward has a game-breaking ability that West Coast is desperate for in a team lacking flair.
He’s also a Victorian. If Petruccelle hasn’t put pen to paper by mid-year, it could be a big sign that he’s set to test the interest of the open market.
Brady Hough is another player the Eagles will be keen to re-sign after the 19-year-old managed 15 games in his debut season at the club last year.
Sam Darcy is a young gun that the Bulldogs would want to sign long-term as soon as possible, having shown plenty of potential in his debut season.
He was only able to play four games in 2022 due to a foot injury, however was able to make an impression in limited time, having an impact on both sides of the field.
The Bulldogs have indicated their wish to get a deal imminently, with it being reported that the club hopes they will come to terms with Darcy before the season gets underway.
Taken second overall in the 2021 draft, the tall is one of only six players taken in the first round not to have already signed an extension.
With the sky seemingly the limit for the father-son prospect, the Bulldogs are expected to offer a huge contract the ensure Darcy continues his stay at Whitten Oval.