Sydney Swans veteran Ryan O’Keefe has expressed his desire to move to another club in 2014.
With the Swans seemingly looking to inject some youth into their midfield, O’Keefe has only managed to play four games this year after playing all 25 last season.
The emergence of Harry Cunningham and Jake Lloyd as well as Luke Parker’s development into an elite midfielder has forced the 33-year-old into the reserves.
O’Keefe’s manager Darian Lobb has revealed the Norm Smith Medallist is seeking pastures new come season’s end.
“Ryan will be exercising his right as a free agent. His body is sound, he loves footy and he’s not ready to hang up the boots,” Lobb said.
After an excellent 2013, it’s likely O’Keefe will want to return home to Melbourne: however, not every club would necessarily want him.
Teams like Melbourne, the Western Bulldogs and Carlton are rebuilding their lists and cannot afford to give games to a man who will be 34 next year.
On top of this, even if they did want O’Keefe, it’s likely he will want to continue his career at a club contesting for a premiership, with those sides having the most use for someone like O’Keefe.
The most likely scenario seems to be Hawthorn. O’Keefe almost returned home in 2008, and his ideal destination was Hawthorn.
The Hawks still have a few years of dominance in them, and adding O’Keefe to their midfield and forward line would aid the likes of Jordan Lewis and Shaun Burgoyne, who have played multiple roles for many years.
The only con of this would be Hawthorn’s already vast midfield depth. Players like Billy Hartung, Jed Anderson and Mitch Hallahan have all been on the fringes for some time, and adding a 34-year-old to that mix would decrease the exposure of these players.
Hawthorn should be wary not to repeat the problems of St Kilda in 2010, who brought in experienced players at the cost of playing rookies.
Along with Hawthorn, teams like Essendon and North Melbourne come to mind as sides close to having their teams in a position to challenge for a flag.
Seemingly being one or two elite players away from a challenging side, adding someone like Ryan O’Keefe to their ranks for possibly two years may be what they need. In particular, North Melbourne seem desperate for more on-field leadership, which O’Keefe can certainly offer.
Collingwood and Geelong, on the other hand, are probably not the best fit for him. While adding the Swans veteran may help the short-term, it is in both sides’ long term interests to continue getting games into their younger players to remain at the top in the future.
Both have plenty of young midfield depth: it would be wiser for Collingwood to get games into the likes of Broomhead, Freeman and Kennedy, or Guthrie, Caddy and Horlin-Smith in Geelong’s case.
As a free agent, a club would not have to give anything up to obtain O’Keefe and he believes he has plenty to offer in 2015. There are certainly clubs which would welcome the dual-premiership star who no longer has a place in Sydney’s best 22.