Each trade period, we see some bombshells being dropped. What are the top 5 most controversial exits in AFL history?
At the end of each season during trade week, all the footy nerds get very, very excited. We are all eager to see who is going where and for what. We chase the trade bombshells that are going to be dropped and shake the footy world to its core. We are intrigued by whether players who have nominated clubs to be traded to get their wish. This is my take on the top 5 controversial exits in AFL history.
In the lead up to the Trade Period of 2016, Alastair Clarkson approached 2 veterans of the Hawthorn Football Club advising them of their intention to trade them off to a new home to free up some salary cap space for some young blood. Jordan Lewis and Sam Mitchell found themselves at new clubs overnight, and Hawthorn got themselves some salary cap space.
In 1993, a Brisbane Bears rookie named Nathan Buckley played arguably the best rookie season anyone could ask for. But unfortunately, he was always destined to leave. It was written into his contract that he must be traded to the club of his choice after 1 year as he was “hungry to win games and play finals”. Whilst he did that plenty in his career, it’s ironic that the 2 losing Grand Finals he played in, were won by Brisbane.
Luke Ball was one of the hardest tacklers and an important member of an engine room that also boasted Lenny Hayes and Nick Dal Santo. But at the end of the 2009 season, Ball dropped a bombshell that he wanted to join the Pies. When no deal could be struck, he nominated for the pre-season draft. While a few clubs advised they want pick him up, Luke Ball advised them of his inflated salary. The other clubs lost interest and he eventually joined the Pies.
1Kurt Tippet to Sydney
Drafted in 2008 to the Adelaide Crows, Kurt Tippett was a monster of a recruit. At 202cms and 100kgs, he was a very intimidating prospect. Coming from a basketball background Tippett was very raw and took some time to find his feet in the AFL.
But once he did he proved to be a vital cog in the Crows forward line. Able to take strong contested marks and pinch hit in the ruck, Tippett was a great asset to the Crows. His major weakness was often his goal kicking, often wayward and unreliable from a set shot.
Throughout the 2012 season, it was rumoured that Kurt Tippett wanted to leave Adelaide and head home back to Queensland. But after all the speculation around Kurt Tippett, in October 2012, he requested a trade to the Sydney Swans. He copped a lot of criticism in the media and was even called a “Money Driver” by Mark Ricciuto.
Everything changed when it was revealed that Tippett was being paid partly in money from outside of the club salary cap. This resulted in the Crows being stripped of their first round picks for 2013 and 2014 and Tippett being suspended for the first 11 rounds of the following season. The AFL eventually blocked the trade to the Swans but Tippett eventually got to the Swans via the Pre-season draft.
2Lance Franklin to Sydney
Lance “Buddy” Franklin is one of the most electric forwards of the modern era. Quick, agile and tall, he has given every defence headaches over the years. But in early 2013, Buddy sent shock waves through the competition by advising the Hawks that he would not begin contract talks with them until the end of the season.
At the end of the 2013 season, Franklin become a restricted free agent which meant if he decided to leave, the Hawks would have the option to match the offer and keep Franklin at Hawthorn. The Greater Western Sydney Giants were considered being the team most likely to be able to afford to drag Franklin away from Glenferrie Oval.
After months of whispers and rumours, it was announced that GWS had withdrawn their offer to Franklin as it was their belief that he was to join Sydney instead. This was a shock to the footy world as the Swans had only signed Kurt Tippett on a very lucrative contract just the year before.
The AFL even sent a committee up to the Swans headquarters to investigate as to whether the Swans could afford to pay Franklin the ground breaking nine-year deal worth $10 million. It was the biggest deal ever offered to a player at the time and still is.
3Ron Barassi to Carlton
The Melbourne Football Club were a powerhouse in the mid to late 50’s. Led by the great Norm Smith as coach, the Demons played in the 1954 Grand Final against Footscray but fell well short. This started a dynasty that went on to win the flag 5 out of 6 years between 1955 and 1960. Led by Captain Ron Barassi, a tough and strong midfielder, the Demons beat all comers through a period of greatness.
But in the 1965 season, all that changed. Carlton offered Barassi and very lucrative contract to join the Blues as their captain-coach. This was unprecedented at the time, as trades were far and few between back in the day.
But Barassi accepted Carlton’s offer and ultimately broke the hearts of the Demons fans, who didn’t know what do to do with their Demons jumpers with the famous number 31 on it. Barassi took the Blues from their lowest finish on the VFL ladder ever, to a premiership in just four years. So it looks like the gamble paid off.
4Ben Cousins to Richmond
Before 2006, Ben Cousins was in the upper echelon of players in the AFL. Blessed with genuine pace, Cousins could kick with both feet and run all day. In 2005, Cousins had arguably his best season, culminating in a Brownlow Medal. But that’s when things started to go wrong.
In early 2006, Cousins resigned as Captain of the Eagles after an incident where he allegedly swam across the Yarra to get away from a Booze Bus. After a stint in rehab in 2007 and being caught by police in possession of illicit drugs and refusing to submit a blood test, Cousins was sacked and banned for 12 months.
After the ban, the AFL Commission cleared Cousins to play AFL in the 2009 season. With little hope of being picked up, he nominated for the draft. He was overlooked in the national draft and with teams pulling out of contention to draft him in the pre-season draft, it was looking unlikely that Cousins would ever play AFL again.
But Richmond gave Cousins a lifeline and drafted him with pick 6. He ended up playing 32 games for the Tigers over 2 seasons before retiring in August 2010.
5Shane Woewodin to Collingwood
In 2000, Shane Woewodin won the Brownlow Medal. However, the following year he struggled to replicate his form from the previous year. The hard running midfielder who had the great ability to hit the scoreboard, was on holiday in Mauritius when Melbourne the deal was done.
Woewodin had spoken with Collingwood prior to his holiday but it was understood that he would stay at Melbourne for less money. But Melbourne didn’t think that Woewodin would ultimately take the pay cut they wanted as the Demons thought that he was not worth the half a million dollar pay packet he was receiving.
So Melbourne got the deal done, and traded Woewodin for a first round draft pick. Woewodin found out he had been traded whilst on holiday which obviously left a sour taste in his mouth. Throughout the following months, Woewodin and the Melbourne coach at the time, Neale Daniher, exchanged verbal jousts until the Queen’s Birthday clash between Collingwood and Melbourne where Woewodin had the last laugh with the Pies beating the Demons by 52 points.
Who was the most controversial exit in AFL history? Comment below to share your list.