The first shock of the off-season was dealt on Tuesday, with enigmatic Collingwood forward Travis Cloke officially requesting a trade from the Magpies.
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t that shocking.
In fact, ask most AFL fans what the most shocking part about Cloke’s latest revelation is, and most would reply that it is that he had to ask for a trade in the first place.
When it comes to forwards, Travis Cloke has been the butt of all jokes in the AFL community this year, as the hulking, 108 kilogram behemoth has re-found the yips in front of goal that plagued him in the early seasons of his career.
Far from his personal best of just one goal shy of hitting 70 in 2011, Cloke was dropped to the VFL three times this season, and managed just 15.14 in 12 AFL games, the fewest goals in a season in his career.
Unsurprisingly, the forward formally requested a trade on Tuesday morning, with three clubs being named as potential suitors for the 2010 premiership player.
Both the North Melbourne and Richmond have reportedly met with Travis Cloke, according to the Herald Sun, but most consider the Western Bulldogs to be the front runner for the 246-game forward.
But after a Tuesday full of opinions weighed in by prominent figures around the AFL, it seems that Cloke moving on from Collingwood does not seem as straightforward as initially thought.
Surprisingly to most, in the opinion of veteran list manager Chris Pelchen, formerly of the Hawks, St Kilda and Port Adelaide, Travis Cloke could still (or would still want) up to three years and $1 million.
“He’ll want three years, but I wouldn’t give him longer than two years. I think he’s got to be kept hungry to apply himself,” Pelchen said.
“He’d want a guaranteed contract, but I’d be offering him an inflated-base contract because of his age. You’re probably looking at $1 million over two years.”
Given the average AFL salary is a little over $300,000 and Cloke’s 2016 season was well below average, a rough estimate of $500,000 a year for someone who has recently spent time in the VFL is a steep asking price. Very steep.
From seasons 2011 to 2013, when the big forward kicked 196 goals in 72 games, the salary he would be after now would be understandable.
Imaginably, during that period, there were clubs such as the Dockers lining up to pay big money for Cloke.
For such a physically imposing beast that, on his day, is as dominant as any forward in the competition, there are still clubs knocking on the door to have Travis Cloke in their jersey.
But if Cloke and his manager do indeed view his talents as a similar worth to what they were a handful of years ago, they are in for a rude surprise. He is now 29, most certainly on the decline, and has lost most of the bargaining leverage he may have had.
Before any team had even entertained it, Magpies president Eddie McGuire stated yesterday that if Travis Cloke were not at the Westpac Centre next year, then he would not be paying a dime of the club legend’s salary if another team were to take him.
Fair enough, but one would have thought that would be an integral part of cutting a deal. Good luck to the ‘Pies in a brave attempt to play “hard but fair”-ball.
To add fuel to the fire, Cloke is still under contract, meaning any potential suitor would have to stump up something in return for the 2007 Copeland Trophy winner.
Again, the Bulldogs seem like the most likely candidate here, given midfielder Lin Jong toured Collingwood’s facilities in July, leading many to believe he may be headed there this off-season.
The Dogs will also need to cover the loss of forward jack Redpath, who will be out for the majority of next season after tearing his ACL.
But in giving up a player with such a rich history at their club, would they want more than a serviceable first team midfielder? Would the Dogs be reluctant to even give that up?
Duck for cover guys, this one may not end with all parties walking away with a smile.