While a portion of trade and free agency deals are often finalised in the dying seconds of the exchange window's deadline day, the wheels can often be in motion before the AFL home and away season is even underway.

Last year's trade window saw 36 players find a new club ahead of the 2023 season, some deals being brokered within hours and others landing after months in the making.

Between contracted players and free agents, AFL clubs and their list managers will often be putting the wheels in motion to scout targets right from their first appearance of the season, or could very well enter the new year with priority signings in mind.

Lion-turned-Magpie Daniel McStay was among the movers at the end of last season, with his switch to Collingwood coming months after his mind was already made up.

"Daniel McStay was a free agent of mine who I got across to Collingwood. But that was all done in July," CSM agent Nick Gieschen revealed to Zero Hanger in the off-season.

"It was still six months in the making, though. There was Brisbane's offer. Then came Collingwood's meeting. It then went back to Brisbane to think about whether to keep him. It eventually got to a stage where Daniel decided, ‘nup, I want to come home'."

With the new season just over a month away, each club is sure to have their list of targets slowly coming together as they plan to scout out-of-contract names across the course of the year.

With this list, we name the one off-contract player your club should be keeping a close eye on in 2023.



Shannon Neale

Already home to a handful of Western Australia's best young names, the Swans could add to their WA links with the addition of Neale.

A move to the Harbour City would see the burgeoning ruck-forward Cat slot beside ex-teammate Logan McDonald in Sydney's attack, while also relieving Sydney's first-string ruckman in splitting the hit-out duties.

The Swans are in need of further key forward options given Lance Franklin's nearing retirement, with McDonald soon becoming the club's go-to target.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 22: Shannon Neale of the Cats and Toby Conway of the Cats celebrate the win during the round nine VFL match between the Northern Bullants and Geelong Cats at Preston City Oval on May 22, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Kelly Defina/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

What Neale can offer, at a bargain price, will aid John Longmire's key-position options as a tall forward target that can pinch-hit in the ruck.