Fremantle need Saintly speed
Fremantle coach Ross Lyon’s urgent need for speed in his adopted outfit’s midfield is pointing directly at potential recruitment of at least one of his former club’s stars.
It is understood that a handful of Lyon’s former St Kilda dominators Brendon Goddard, Leigh Montagna and Nick Dal Santo are in the firing line for a possible reunion with their old coach over in the west.
The re-modelled Dockers under Lyon have made it abundantly clear they are searching for a power forward and have been linked with attempts to lure brute force Collingwood gun Travis Cloke for next year.
But it has also emerged that Lyon and his football advisors want an injection of nippy on-ballers to run the football through heavy traffic and into open forward line scoring chances.
St Kilda’s looming salary cap squeeze with so many top stars out of contract, further enhances likes of Lyon’s former Saints stars as likely recruiting targets.
Even though the hard-nut Saints have recovered from Lyon’s unsavoury departure with a return to the top eight after two months under new coach Scott Watters and are serious finals contenders, they face certain losses among some their stars at season’s end.
Goddard and Montagna are most likely to emerge as prime candidates to leave the Saints.
They are out of contract at the end of this season with no immediate apparent prospects of announcing new deals with the Saints.
Dal Santo, 28, would need to be traded to switch clubs with his Saints contract intact until the end of next year.
It is understood that at least one St Kilda big name is growing in his concerns that Saints officials are yet to initiate talks on any new deal.
Gritty defender Sam Gilbert, 25, is another top Saint who is out of contract at the end of the current season and likely to attract significant interest from clubs looking for versatile big defenders.
The nippy Montagna, 28, looms as the most likely to slot into Fremantle’s midfield.
His pace and slick ball-use alongside emerging Freo on-ballers Stephen Hill, Michael Barlow, David Mundy, Nat Fyfe and Anthony Morabito, when the gifted teenager eventually resumes from his full knee reconstruction, is a crucial ingredient desperately needed by the Dockers and especially at their home ground at Subiaco.
Fremantle’s desperate need for some midfield reinforcements was totally exposed in the Docker’s second-half capitulation to staunch rival West Coast in Perth in Sunday’s Western Derby 35.
West Coast completely obliterated the Dockers around the ball in heavy congestion to slam on 10 goals to Fremantle’s none from deep into the second term to when the game was secure a minute into the final quarter and a 54-point lead.
Goddard, 27, has constantly been linked with a possible departure from the Saints at the end of his current contract.
The tough all-rounder consistently gets connected with a possible move to new franchise Greater Western Sydney on a lucrative contract or to an outfit where Goddard might achieve premiership glory in the closing stages of his playing days.
Dal Santo would need to be part of an amicable swap to proceed with any prospect of reuniting with his former coach.
Lyon was also still contracted for another season with the Saints when he walked out last September and revealed that he had not received any extension offer from club management until just days before his explosive departure.
Saints management appears to have already braced for potential loss of a big name and even the prospect of another switch from a gun to re-acquaint with their highly regarded old coach at Fremantle.
Saints chief executive Michael Nettlefold conceded late last year that players will be tempted to move on the back of Lyon’s controversial walkout that rocked AFL circles immediately after losing an elimination final to Sydney.
“When a coach leaves it’s not unusual to lose people and when a new coach comes, there is every chance he might want to facilitate change anyway,” Nettlefold said at the time.
St Kilda’s delicate juggling act with a host of accomplished stars coming out of contract is expected to escalate into a major story through the AFL community as the 2012 season approaches conclusion.
The Saints salary cap problems have been well documented through AFL circles with mounting anticipation that at least one big and probably even two top servants will be squeezed out at the end of this season.
Approaching free agency movements will further complicate St Kilda’s negotiations with any of the Saints heading into new deal discussions.
St Kilda has the biggest list of any club of players open to movement through the league’s new free agency regulations.
The Saints have 10 of the 81 players listed as either restricted or unrestricted free agents.
A restricted free agent can move to a club of his choice if a contractual offer cannot be match by his existing club, while an unrestricted player can move to a new employer without any limitations in the crossover.
The brilliant Goddard is a restricted agent, while Montagna will be completely free to move to a club of his choice after his unbroken decade of Saints service.
Fiery veteran small forward Stephen Milne, powerhouse big man Justin Koschitzke, defender Jason Blake, James Gwilt, Raphael Clarke, Montagna and popular champion Lenny Hayes are Saints heading for unrestricted free agent status at the end of the season.
Goddard and tough defenders Sam Fisher and Jason Gram are unrestricted in any movement if they want to leave the Saints.