Port Adelaide have gone toe-to-toe with Geelong as Esava Ratugolea’s desired move to South Australia looks set to drag on through the AFL trade period.
For the second off-season in a row, Ratugolea has requested a trade to Port.
But this time the defender is out of contract and cannot be forced to stay with the Cats.
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Geelong coach Chris Scott launched his first counter to Ratugolea’s desire to leave this week, plugging his relationship with the 75-gamer.
“It’s a really tough one for me. I feel like our club has invested a hell of a lot in Esava – and personally, I’m really invested in the guy,” he told AFL 360.
“I’m still hopeful that his future is at Geelong. He’s played a lot of games for us when he probably wasn’t ready, and that’s sort of part of the investment.
“It’s not just that in terms of the games he’s played, but just in terms of us taking a long-term approach in the hope that he would be a much better player in the second half of his career than the first.
“To let him go is not something I’m comfortable with, especially in the current environment where key-position defenders just seem to be, one, hard to get, and, two, very, very expensive. So in that context, I’m hopeful he’ll be wearing the hoops.”
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Chris Scott is desperate to keep Esava Ratugolea. Credit: Getty
Port Adelaide gave that stance short shrift when football boss Chris Davies addressed Ratugolea’s trade request the day after Scott’s remarks.
“Esava’s confirmed he doesn’t want to be at Geelong – and he’s out of contract,” Scott said.
“So typically I’d say he probably won’t be at Geelong next year.”
Understanding that Ratugolea can walk to the draft without any picks coming back to the Cats in return, Scott claimed other defenders have “set the market” on trades.
“No one’s going to say ‘we could give a pretty good deal’ or hope that he gets through to pick No.2, No.3, No.4 or even pick No.15 in the national draft,” the coach said.
“You don’t steal them.”
Davies noted that targeting out-of-contract players generally “makes it easier for all these types of deals to get done” – something at odds with the Cats’ view as they wait for the trade period to begin on October 9.
Ratugolea first sought a trade at the end of last year after spending most of the 2022 season in the VFL. Credit: Jonathan DiMaggio/AFL Photos/via Getty Images
Port’s season only ended in the semi-finals but they have already won commitments from Ratugolea and Essendon defender Brandon Zerk-Thatcher.
Western Bulldogs ruckman Jordon Sweet and Richmond’s Ivan Soldo are also in their sights, with the reason for the double play explained by Scott Lycett’s situation.
The 30-year-old is unlikely to be offered a new deal and Davies said the “banged up” 2018 premiership player could quit.
“Scott right now is more thinking about whether he wants to continue to play,” he said.
“He’s in a position where he’s had a pretty injury-interrupted last few years and the poor bugger right now, as big of a warrior as he has been, he’s really banged up.
“A guy who was able to get back at the end of the year, probably earlier than we thought he might be, has worked hard.
“But he’s spending some time away now just to think about what he wants in the future, first and foremost.”
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Scott Lycett’s career looks set to be over. Credit: AAP
Former captain Travis Boak, the club’s games record-holder, is poised to agree to a one-year deal.
“If he wants to play next year, he’ll be at Port Adelaide,” Davies said.
Orazio Fantasia could also be offered a one-year contract, despite the 27-year-old managing only four AFL games over the past two seasons.
Fantasia, stuck on 99 appearances since round three, had similar soft-tissue issues during his seven seasons at Essendon.
“Raz (Fantasia), we haven’t been able to finalise some of those lists decisions because we need to go through a really important period of time for us from a trade perspective,” Davies said.
“We all see that Orazio has significant talent and we would have liked to have seen it more at AFL level in the past two or three years.
“Whether that means that he continues to be contracted into the future remains to be seen.
“It’s more likely than not that we’ll want to give Raz an opportunity. But how the numbers fall out from a trade and list number perspective, I can’t answer that right now.”
– with AAP
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