The 2022 Continental Tyres Trade Period is shaping as one of the most complex in history with a new currency added to the traditional mix.
Customarily there have been two forms of currency clubs can exchange during trade period; draft selections and players.
But in recent years there has been a shift in the industry, where a third form of collateral has started to emerge in transactions between clubs.
That new currency is salary cap space, and SUNS General Manager of Player Talent and Strategy Craig Cameron says the club will look to be aggressive to re-engineer its player payments model in the coming weeks.
“The AFL has now actually recognised that (salary cap space) is a legitimate currency now in the trade period,” Cameron told SUNS Media.
“If you can keep managing it properly, you can actually use salary cap space as a weapon… it becomes something you can go to the market with for a trade or a free agent and that’s where we are looking to get to.
“We’ll be really aggressive in this trade period to open up space as a pre-emptive strategy.”
Cameron highlights Richmond and Geelong as two modern-day examples of clubs who have manoeuvred their salary caps to improve the list.
“Geelong have been able to maintain a list that can contend for a long period of time because they have been able to manage their cap and top up with players that will keep them contending,” Cameron said.
“Richmond have won three out of the last five flags and they now have the ability to bring in two A-grade midfielders at the peak of their game because they know they’ve got players that are going to retire or are going to come off large contracts.
“Once you get your list to a stable position and you understand its capabilities, it makes it easier for you to manage your TPP (total player payments).”
After a deliberate reset at the end of 2018, the SUNS went through a phase of collecting high-end talent at the draft and are now set to enter the next phase to “contend and win”.
Cameron said if the club could use the upcoming trade period to ease the pressure on its salary cap, it would set the SUNS up to make a big splash in future years as it aims to make a sustained run at the AFL finals.
“Being a northern market club and an expansion club, we’re often under pressure to retain players and therefore our payments can become under pressure,” Cameron explained.
“We’ve got to keep the pillars that we think will help us play finals and then we’ve got to manage players out potentially who may be on more than their performances warrant.
“That’s a difficult thing sometimes for fans to accept and understand but we have different pressures and challenges to particularly what southern clubs do.
“There is some genuine interest (from players) in coming to this football club so we’ve got to make sure we can engineer our player payments to a position where we can take advantage of that.”