On October 14, 2017 the Cats made the decision to not match Port Adelaide’s bid for restricted free agent Steven Motlop.

Some three years on, this decision has played out perfectly for the Cats and has the potential to set the club up for years to come. 

But, firstly, we have to revisit that 2017 free agency period.

The Cats were in the process of rejuvenating their list whilst they farewelled the previous generation of premiership stars, with a focus on experienced players at the fore.

The Club had acquired Patrick Dangerfield, Scott Selwood, Lachie Henderson and Zac Smith two years earlier and Zach Tuohy the year prior.

The 2017 player movement period though was one the Cats had identified as a good one to go to the draft. Not long after the free agency period had commenced, the Cats were informed that Steven Motlop had agreed to a contract with the Power.

For the Cats it was a win-win scenario, Motlop had provided many years of fantastic service to the club and was now able to move to Adelaide and closer to family, whilst in return for Motlop’s exit the Cats received an end of first round pick as compensation. 

Interestingly, on the announcement of the free agency compensation, Fox Footy reporter Max Laughton wrote:

“By itself it could kickstart the Cats’ future if used in the draft, and it also means they’re back in the trade race for both Jack Watts and Jake Stringer.” 

Whilst the Cats didn’t use it purely on the draft nor as an exchange for Watts or Stringer, the pick did facilitate both a trade and draft bounty for the Cats.

After being unsuccessful in facilitating Gary Ablett Jnr’s return to Geelong the year before, the Cats were now armed with a pick that would not only allow them to satisfy Gold Coast, but also allow them to receive draft picks back.

Five days after the Cats received the end of first round compensation for Motlop, the Cats sent it, along with a future second round pick, to Gold Coast for Ablett, pick 24 and a future fourth round pick.

That next month, the Cats used that pick 24 to select Tim Kelly from South Fremantle in the WAFL.

Kelly immediately burst onto the scene for the Cats. His skill, goalkicking and ability to win contested ball was incredible for a player in his first season. After winning the AFLPA’s Best First Year Player award, Kelly requested a trade back to Western Australia for family reasons at the end of the 2018 season.

The Cats and Eagles were unable to come to a trade agreement on the prodigious talent and Kelly stayed at Geelong. His 2019 season was even more special than his first, as he claimed All Australian honours and a top five finish in the Brownlow medal. 

West Coast was prepared for the 2019 trade period and came armed with a bounty of picks for the Cats in return for the damaging midfielder.

By the end of the trade the Cats had gained picks 14, 24, 37 and West Coast’s future first round pick. The pick 37 would be used by the Cats shortly after to acquire Josh Jenkins and a future pick from the Crows.

On draft night, the Cats selected Cooper Stephens with the pick 14 (which would become pick 16 after Academy and Father Son selections) and traded the pick 24 for Gold Coast’s future mid round one selection in 2020.

And this is how we get to where we are now.

After the Giants chose to match the Cats free agency offer on Cameron, it became clear the Cats would need to use some of their draft bounty to get Cameron over the line.

It took until two minutes before the trade deadline for the two sides to come to a deal but by the end of it the Cats had received Cameron and two future second round picks whilst the Giants received 13, 15, 20.

But this isn’t where the story ends for the Cats. 

Experts are predicting Next Generation Academy, NSW/QLD academy and father-son picks to come thick and fast in the first round this year. This means that the picks the Cats gave up for Cameron could push out to the last teens and twenties. This is also combined with the arduous task that recruiters will have at the 2020 draft of identifying who the elite talent is off nearly no football exposure this year.

In 2021, the Cats will be able to utilise their own first and second round picks as well as the Giants and Bombers second round picks in either the draft or trade period.

They may even look to package them up to get back into this year’s draft as well. 

From the decision to not match Steven Motlop’s free agency bid, the Cats have made a series of decisions that will strengthen their legacy for years to come.

Cats gain

Cats give up

Pick 19 (2017 national draft)

Steven Motlop

Gary Ablett & Pick 24 (2017 national draft)

Pick 19 (2017 national draft)

Tim Kelly

Pick 24 (2017 national draft)

Pick 14, 24, 37 (2019 national draft) and Eagles 1st Rd Pick (2020 national draft)

Tim Kelly

Cooper Stephens

Pick 14* (2019 national draft)

Josh Jenkins

Pick 37* (2019 national draft)

Gold Coast Suns mid-first round pick (2020 national draft)

Pick 24* (2019 national draft)

Jeremy Cameron, Essendon 2nd round pick (2021 national draft)

and GWS 2nd round pick (2021 national draft)

Pick 13* (tied to GC), Pick 15* (tied to WC), Pick 20* (2020 national draft)