You would be forgiven for mistaking Arden Street for a television studio shooting an Eddie McGuire quiz show this week. It may only be April, but North Melbourne has cash to burn and will not die wondering this trade period. The latest rumour to come out of the club is a nine year, $9 million mega-deal for Giant, Josh Kelly.
But the question is, however, is Kelly worth a million dollars a season?
We don’t need lifelines for this. The answer is simple.
North has been desperate for a player of Kelly’s calibre for a long time. He is a speedy and skillful outside runner with an above-average ball-winning ability and elite endurance. Kelly is like Sam Gibson if Sam Gibson could hit a target (sorry Sam).
Kelly is no stranger to North either. He is the son of dual Sandover Medallist and former North midfielder, Phil. Kelly senior played 61 games for North Melbourne from 1981 to 1985 in a career decimated by injury.
But there have been some rumbles in footy media circles about the nature of such a contract. Should he accept, Kelly would be one of the seven-million-dollar men in the league – but unlike the others in the group, he does not have a Brownlow (or two), he hasn’t kicked 100 goals in a season or achieved some other extraordinary feat which would justify such a pay packet. The same criticism was leveled against Tom Boyd when he joined the Bulldogs in 2014.
But sometimes as a football club, you need to take risks. Those risks began at the end of last year with the delisting of four club legends. The risks kept coming when the club chose to stick with Brad Scott through an “aggressive reset” period (a story for another time), and they look to continue when several players come out of contract at the end of the year. And for a club which has never really bottomed out, more risks need to be taken, or they run the danger of being forever average.
Should Kelly accept the offer, the major stumbling block is how a trade could be done. Let’s be honest for a minute, North will likely end 2017 with a top five pick, and they will not want to part with it. At the very least, GWS will demand a first-round pick. So, in what would've been seen as unfathomable 18 months ago, North may look to offload former All-Australian ruckman, Todd Goldstein.
At 28, Goldstein is in the twilight of his career but should still have plenty of suitors. While Goldstein remains a quality ruckman who North would miss greatly, the emergence of Braydon Preuss will soften the blow slightly.
So, the question becomes: Does North part ways with a known quantity who may have five years left for a rising star who probably has a decade?
Again, football is a game of risks.
But the cynic in me is wary of getting too excited. Whether this leak is a cruel ploy from Kelly’s management to extract every dollar possible from GWS will come out in the next few weeks with his management reportedly flying over to Sydney today to continue contract talks. It was only two months ago that Kelly and the club were close to agreeing to terms. But $9 million and long-term security will be hard to turn down.
But if the offer is true, it will have GWS heavies worried about keeping one of their young stars and how to fit so many bright young talents in a cap which is shrinking by the year.
North has tried for years to lure a big name. Dan Hannebery, Hamish Hartlett, Adam Treloar, James Aish, and Jaeger O’Meara are just some names that have said no to North in the past few years so forgive the optimist in me for thinking we’re due.
But in a game of uncertainties, one thing is sure – Josh Kelly will have several things to mull over for the next six months.