If Lance Franklin’s move to the Sydney Swans was the biggest of the off-season, the Ben McEvoy trade could lay claim to the most significant.
St Kilda announced its intentions to begin the rebuild when they traded Ben McEvoy to Hawthorn for Shane Savage and pick 18. As part of deal, St Kilda also attained Hawthorn’s compensation pick for Lance Franklin, pick 19, for St Kilda’s pick 24 and 59.
It was a trade that, at the time, was a win/win for both football clubs. Hawthorn gained a much-needed ruckman following the retirement of Max Bailey, while St Kilda secured a further two picks inside the top 20.
Two rounds into the season, the fallout has been substantial for both clubs.
Many experts believed this was the most important trade and draft period for St Kilda in some time. The Ross Lyon era ended with no premierships and no footballers ready to step up and take reign from the old brigade.
St Kilda was desperate for young talent. Whilst they did trade one of very few that were in that 24-25 age bracket, they did attain three players under 22.
Luke Dunstan was selected with the first of the two picks St Kilda got from Hawthorn and has had an immediate impact. On the back of a solid pre-season and key midfield personnel missing for St Kilda, ready-made Dunstan was handed a round one debut. Collecting 21 disposals and laying seven tackles, he was awarded the NAB Rising Star nomination for his performance against Melbourne.
Dunstan has become one of the faces of the future and his first hit out warmed the hearts of both St Kilda supporters and the football department. Having found one at pick 18, both knew too well the ramifications if they failed to capitalise on the picks gained from trading a player like McEvoy.
When St Kilda traded its Brendon Goddard compensation to Gold Coast for Tom Hickey and picks, they got a player similar to what they already had in Ben McEvoy – a mobile ruckman able to influence the game around the ground.
In Tom Hickey’s performance against Greater Western Sydney, we saw a player who kicked three goals early in the game, before going back and filling the hole inside defensive 50. Against Melbourne in round 1, he laid a tackle usually expected of inside midfielders.
To have someone who can play back, midfield and forward is worth its weight is gold. While Ben McEvoy was able to fill the hole in defence, his goal kicking left a lot to be desired, with a tally of just 27 goals over 91 games for St Kilda. Having picked up the game at 17, Hickey has all the tools to develop into a star.
The final piece of the McEvoy trade was Shane Savage, who arrived at Seaford with newfound responsibilities. He had gone from a role player at Hawthorn to bridging the gap between the past and the new frontier of St Kilda midfielders.
Savage brought with him an outside game, along with a devastating long kick. However, his first up performance against Melbourne came of little influence and started with the green vest in St Kilda’s round 2 match against GWS.
Patience is required for a player adjusting to his new role as a midfield leader. He will need time to learn how to play in a side that will not get as much of the footy as he would have at his previous home, along with newfound attention from the opposition.
For Hawthorn, it was yet another successful trade period.
If you break down their premiership win over Fremantle, you see just how successful they had been at the trade table over the years.
Brian Lake, Jack Gunston, Josh Gibson and Shaun Burgoyne were all significant contributors to Hawthorn’s 2013 premiership season and were all acquired from another club.
To add Ben McEvoy to this well credentialed list made sense.
Hawthorn was desperate for a new leading ruckman following the retirement of Max Bailey. It had the Hawks light on rucks. Both Sam Grimley and Luke Lowden are yet to step up, while David Hale is preferred as a pinch-hitting ruck/forward.
Ben McEvoy’s mobility adds further versatility to the Hawthorn line up. Hawks now possesses two ruckman that can work both ways. David Hale can go forward and impact the scoreboard, while Ben McEvoy showed at St Kilda he can fill the hole inside defensive 50.
That being said, in his first two games for Hawthorn, McEvoy has taken most of his contested marks in the forward half the ground. This includes a game-high five contested marks against the Brisbane Lions in round one to go with a solid game in the ruck.
McEvoy will be a threat around the ground, particularly with that long kick to a contest, where his marking will enable the Hawks to retain possession in a 50/50 situation.
McEvoy also comes with big wraps on his leadership and maturity for someone still relatively young in football terms. He was touted by those within the club as a future captain of St Kilda, commended for his mature and professional approach to football. Under the guidance of inspirational captain Luke Hodge, McEvoy may still yet become captain of an AFL club.
While we can only judge Hawthorn’s success in the trade so far on the performance of Ben McEvoy, they have Billy Hartung waiting in the wings.
An endurance freak, Hartung set a new beep test record of 16.6 at last year’s draft combine. Likened to Dane Swan, Hartung will provide midfield goals and add further pace to the Hawthorn line-up.
Yet to make his debut, Hartung will also help aid Hawthorn’s ageing midfield and will join a new breed, led by the likes of Bradley Hill, Jed Anderson and Liam Shiels.
There was no standout winner of the Ben McEvoy trade – both teams have reaped the rewards of successful business. Hawthorn gains a once-touted future captain and star ruckman, while St Kilda brought in the future. While there have been immediate results, the fallout from this trade, both positive and negative, will be felt for many years to come.