The 2023 AFL season has well and truly ticked into the business end of proceedings, and with that, the on-field activity becomes increasingly captivating.
Discussion and debate about the state of umpiring, dangerous tackles and the MRO, 'wildcard' finals formats – and everything else of the like – has dominated the league's agenda to this point in the year.
However, as we edge excitedly closer to the flag-deciding matchups of this season, we also creep closer to the off-season; signalling free agency and trades!
As is the case every season, an array of appealing talent is potentially up for grabs.
In this three-part series, we're not necessarily analysing each club's biggest or most popular off-contract names. Rather, we've examined every squad's most intriguing crop of players whose contract situations provoke curiosity.
So, without further ado, let's explore the first six teams and their off-contract assets.
1. Adelaide Crows
Following the Crows' completion of a substantial amount of business during the unofficial mid-year retention period – cementing the futures of a host of youngsters, including Josh Rachele, Jake Soligo, and Chayce Jones – there's outstanding work to be done at West Lakes amid Adelaide's corroding fight for a finals seed.
Tabling 'Tex' a respectable contract beyond this season appears a foregone conclusion; it seems a certainty that it's a matter of 'when' rather than 'if'.
Against considerable odds, the 33-year-old Crows veteran is a genuine Coleman Medal chance this season, having kicked 50 goals from 16 games to date, dominating the majority of his direct opponents.
Walker's stunning conversion rate translates to an average of 3.1 goals per game. He's registered a better figure in only one other season in his career; in 2012, when he managed a 3.3-goal mean, bagging a career-high 63 majors through 19 outings. While unlikely, Walker surpassing that figure across his next three games isn't outside his capability, especially after what we've witnessed him deliver in 2023.
Walker's management may be advising the veteran to hold off signing on the dotted line for a while longer, as the long-kicking forward likely has some leverage to add a few more dollars to his current prospective total by the cessation of this season.
The dependable key-position pillar is not only one of the Crows' best stoppers, but is also a valued member of Matthew Nicks' leadership group, pushing the assumption that he will receive a Crows contract extension offer. However, Doedee's long-term absence, coupled with a potential issue or two, may mean that equation isn't as straightforward as first thought.
There's no guarantee the 26-year-old is ready to re-join Crows training at the beginning of next season; we're now versed in the unpredictability of ACL recovery setbacks. There's also the talking point of Doedee being overlooked for Adelaide's captaincy in favour of recent import Jordan Dawson, and whether or not that ruffled a few feathers in the Doedee camp.
Finally, and potentially most significantly as it pertains to a recommitment decision, Doedee is a Geelong Falcons product, leading to the expectation that he will receive plentiful interest from Victorian clubs.
A recent report tied Doedee to the Brisbane Lions, whose tall defensive depth is shorthanded, signalling the whispers have already begun.
Importantly, though, Doedee holds a restricted-free-agent status, meaning a club with ample cap space may have the means to put a lucrative offer to Doedee with the hope that Adelaide, whose list department has agreed to a spree of long-term player re-signings in the space of the last month, decide not to match.
Albeit, in the case that none of the aforementioned sticking points are legitimately problematic in Doedee's mind, the Crows' positive on-field trajectory could be enough reason to persuade a long-term recommitment from the valued backman.
Sloane, like the Tigers' 300-gamer, has undoubtedly slowed down during these latter stages of his decorated career.
Albeit, at times throughout this season, the wily veteran has inspired confidence that he could play on next year, continuing to demonstrate his defensive impact on games and his admirable on-field leadership.
Despite managing just four games in an injury-debilitating 2022 season, Sloane has had a mini-rejuvenation of sorts this year, playing in every single one of the Crows' games and going at a respectable mean of 19.6 disposals and 5.2 tackles per game.
If Sloane and the Crows were to mutually agree to a short-term extension beyond this year, though, this rapidly-improving Adelaide side shapes as a stubborn one to retain a spot next year, even for someone with as revered a reputation as Sloane.