Melbourne’s hellish season looks as if it will continue yet, with veteran defender Jared Rivers to join Geelong.
As an unrestricted free agent, he’d become the second player to make a transfer between Geelong and Melbourne this transfer period, after Shannon Byrnes followed the opposite path to become a Demon last week.
Speculation has been evident yet quiet, with the key defender undergoing negotiations with Geelong staff since the end of the season.
Being mates outside of football with Cat Andrew Mackie has likely also played an important role in luring him west.
The deal, understood to be three years in length, was also mentioned by former teammates and friends Brad Green and Brad Miller on Twitter, suggesting that the move may already have been completed.
However, the announcement, with trade week commencing and multiple other players and targets at the forefront of Geelong’s mind, may wait until procedures die down somewhat.
A three-year deal will take the defender, who turns 28 later in the month, until the end of the 2015 season, which would likely see him finish his career at Kardinia Park.
He took the third most marks, second most contested marks and second most one percenters in a season filled with variety; he started the year in defence before switching to the forward line to fill a void and present as a target, where he kicked 13 goals.
He played 150 games for the Demons, including finishing second in the 2011 Keith ‘Bluey’ Truscott Medal, and there’s no doubt that he’ll fill an important role.
With Geelong’s loss of champion defender Matthew Scarlett, Rivers fills a more immediate need.
With Tom Lonergan and Harry Taylor in the side alongside him, it should allow for a more flexible backline, allowing him to play third man up.
Rivers tends to play his best when he’s allowed to float somewhat and read the play, which lets him judge the flight of the ball and mark and spoil where required.
An extra capable key defender also gives Taylor permission to spread and become more creative as a defender and even as a forward, as he has proven through his aerial ability, kicking goals when switching ends.
As all three are more than capable of negating tall forwards individually, it also allows them to negate the tallest of forward lines as well as, or better than, any other team. None are slow defenders by any means either, which should allow for capable defence not just limited to the key positions.
Undoubtedly, it is a very experienced yet very short-term setup in the Cats’ back half – Taylor is the youngest of the key trio at the age of 26 – with Josh Hunt, Andrew Mackie and Corey Enright also aging.
However, with finals football still well and truly on their minds, it’s a clever, versatile and impressive setup.
Given that the only extra cost comes from the salary cap rather than the expense of picks or players, which still looks to have comfortable space to accommodate it, it’s a logical signing for both parties.