If the club rates McNiece, then yep he’ll stay. I agree Leuy and Jerrett are the certainties.
However, after that it all becomes a lot more grey. If the club really does think we’re threatening for next year, you don’t necessarily want to cut your depth. Especially youngish depth. There are a handful of areas we have depth, or a number of players with question marks:
Half-forward flanker/small forward
Bags, Long, Colyer, Green, and Begley are the players in this group fighting for one position in the side (ignoring injuries, assuming Walla and Raz are locks ). All have question marks for one reason or another (yes, even Begley - he’s not proven yet). The reality is Bags is the oldest, but also the best current performer in the side, Green is probably the next best and was a lock last year, Colyer is contracted and hence safe, Begley is safe because of his promise, and Long hasn’t shown a great deal yet.
If you’re really competing next year, the temptation is to stay with Bags & Green, cut Long, and hope Begley knocks them out of the side sometime in 2019. Colyer either gets better again or is delisted end of 2019.
But that’s only one gone. And some would argue youth over Bags/Green.
We have Hooker, Hurley, Hartley, Ambrose, Goddard, Dea, Francis, Zerk and Gleeson. Nine guys, it’s feels like a lot. But given the way we play 7 backs nowdays (including the bench), usually 4-5 are from this group. You then add we must be planning for life post Hooker/Hurley and Goddard is on his last legs, then you really saying that in a post 2020 world, its six players to fill 4-5 roles. Which suddenly, with injuries, feels about right. It means after Hurley & Hooker go you will have a pool of Hartley, Ambrose, Zerk and Francis as your talls, and as mediums you will have Gleeson, Dea and Francis (again). I’m reasonably comfortable with that, especially given there are plenty of question marks on Zerk and Francis still.
So who can we afford to cut for 2019? Well, probably only Goddard.
Third tall/marking medium forward
Stringer, Laverde and Stewart fall into this bucket, and frankly we probably only need one in the side. Which is Stringer. But you can play more if they’re good enough, and Stewart and Laverde both have a heap of promise. Add in that Stewart could step up to “full” KP player, and Laverde has potential upside as a big bodied mid, and I think all three stay.
We have JD, Stewart, McKernan and Brown. I can’t see any of them going anywhere. All were necessary this year.
On a side note, Smack will almost certainly be upgraded to the main list. So theoretically we could go in with 2 draft picks as a minimum in the national draft. McNiece staying or going doesn’t effect this as he’s a rookie anyway.
So that leaves us with 2 definite outs, and then a few possibles. If we bring in a FA or trade, we have to delist for that player plus two more. I don’t think it will be a heap, and I think the most vulnerable are Goddard and Long.