In mid-February, Collingwood signed three players via the preseason Supplementary Selection Period (SSP): Lachie Sullivan, Jack Bytel, and Josh Eyre. Sullivan, 26 years old, has been a star midfielder for the Western Bulldogs in the VFL where he won two best and fairest awards. He was named to the VFL team of the year in 2022 and 2023. Bytel, 23 years old, was drafted by St Kilda in 2018 and played 22 games before being delisted at the end of 2024. Bytel is also a midfielder. Eyre, aged 21, was a member of Essendon's Next Generation Academy and was elevated to Essendon's VFL list in 2022. He joined Collingwood's VFL program last season. He recently underwent surgery for a tendon tear and won't return to training until late April.
The AFL has announced the annual rule changes for the 2024 season, primarily focusing on player protection. The new rule interpretations cover smothering kicks and run-down tackles, both of which can risk player injury. Two incidents in 2023 led to these changes. Collingwood defender Brayden Maynard leaped into the air to attempt a smother against Demon Angus Brayshaw. Maynard collided with Brayshaw who suffered a concussion as a result of the collision. Maynard faced the tribunal but avoided suspension. Maynard’s exoneration was applauded by some sections of the football community who argued he had done nothing wrong, but the AFL flagged a review. The new rule states in part, "If a player leaves the ground in an attempt to smother, it will be deemed careless conduct at a minimum, “unless the player has taken all reasonable steps to avoid that high contact and/or minimize the force of that high contact (for example, by adopting a body position that minimizes the force of the high contact”. The incident can be viewed on YouTube
While the AFL doesn’t want to end the run-down tackle,
In early October, the AFL announced four new members for AFL life membership. The new members are Neil Craig, Peggy O'Neal, Kevin Sheehan, and Greg Swann for their respective roles within the game. The formal induction will take place next year during the 2024 season launch. Six players who reached 300 games also qualify by rule. They are: Luke Breust, Dustin Martin, Luke Parker, Isaac Smith, Callan Ward, and Jack Ziebell.
2024 LIFE MEMBERS
Collingwood delisted Trey Ruscoe, Trent Bianco, Tom Wilson, Arlo Draper, and Cooper Murley. Sydney picked up unrestricted free agent James Jordon and West Coast added unrestricted free agent Matt Flynn.
Ruckman Flynn has joined West Coast from Greater Western Sydney. Flynn, 26, was drafted by GWS in 2015 and played 33 games. The Eagles believe will add size with the retirement of Nic Naitanui. List manager Rohan O'Brien said, “We prioritized adding to our ruck stocks this off-season so we’re really pleased Matt decided to join the club ... Matt has spent eight seasons in the AFL system and is physically mature so we expect he can come in and make an impact.”
Greater Western Sydney captain Toby Greene won the toss and kicked to the Punt Rd end. With the pinnacle of his footy career in his mind, the Preliminary final against Richmond in 2018, American Mason Cox started in the ruck and won the first hit out. His teammate McStay drew two huge cheers from the predominantly Collingwood crowd first when he marked and then when he connected for a goal from 30 meters out. Jack Crisp doubled the score with a quick kick off a step and off the outside of the boot to kick the Magpies second goal. The nearly 98,000 in the crowd (almost all Magpie fans) were ecstatic.
Now the Giants had their turn when Irishman Callum Brown was put in range with a 50 meter penalty but a poor kick off the boot went wide to give the Giants their first but single point. McStay came from the back of the pack to somehow lead to the ball and marked strongly 20 meters but missed the shot on goal. Mihocek added another point for the Pies behind before quarter time, while Riccardi and Daniels added singles for the Giants.
The semi-finals weekend was bittersweet, not only for the teams which were eliminated but for the sad news of the passing of the legendary great Ron Barassi. Ron Barassi was 87 and suffered complications from a fall. Tributes from the AFL and the four clubs with which he was involved poured in. His story is well-chronicled, from the time he went to live with Melbourne coach Norm Smith after his father was killed in World War II to his recruitment to the Melbourne Demons, his shock move to Carlton, and his coaching career at Carton, North Melbourne, and Sydney. He was actually retired when he was coaxed to take over at the Swans after their move from Melbourne to Sydney. He coached the Swans from 1993 through 1995 (59 games). He was a board member for seven more seasons.
Sydney chairman Andrew Pridham said the AFL has lost a pioneer, "The Sydney Swans are saddened by the passing of one of the game's all-time greats, Ron Barassi. Ron was a wonderful person and had a huge influence on the Swans, for which we are forever grateful ... ".
North Melbourne hosted the Collingwood Football Club at Marvel Stadium on Sunday afternoon. While outside it was raining, match conditions were perfect under the retractable roof which was closed for the day. It was a big milestone match for American born player Mason Cox, who was honored on the banner running out even if he was second fiddle, it read "Steel Sidebottom 300 games, Mason Cox 100". When Collingwood ran out through the banner Cox, as he traditionally does, remained at the back of the group and was the last to run through the banner.
Cox started forward where he has played most of his time on the field in the AFL. In the sixth minute of the game Darcy more marked on the wing and looked for the lead of the big American. He was awarded the mark after the defender chopped his arms but his set shot kick went to the left for a behind. Not quite the fairytale start.
The AFL will be holding their annual Life Membership and Jack Titus Award ceremony in early March. There are eight new inductees for their services to the game. Five inductees automatically qualified having reached 300 total AFL games: Trent Cotchin, Todd Goldstein, Josh J. Kennedy, Paddy Ryder and Steele Sidebottom. Lisa Hardeman, Bruce McAvaney and Eddie McGuire were awarded life membership for their ‘Special Services to the Game’. Peter Haby was awarded the Jack Titus Service Award for outstanding service to football as the Hawthorn Football Club Historian and Museum Curator. The AFL Commission confirmed their awards at a meeting late last year.
The Supplemental Signing Period (SSP) started several months ago and ended February 15. It allows clubs with available spots to sign players as rookies. Below are the clubs and the players they signed.
The Adelaide Crows had two spots open on their list with Fischer McAsey and Paul Seedsman both being placed on the inactive list for the 2023 season. They signed former Collingwood midfielder Tyler Brown as a rookie for this season. Brown has signed a one year deal. Brown is the son of former Magpie premiership player Gavin and played 27 games for Collingwood before being delisted at the end of 2022. He had battled illness and injury in stint with the Pies.
In mid-October, Port Adelaide, Adelaide, Essendon, Collingwood, and North Melbourne all made more list changes and two Western Bulldogs players announced their retirements.
Port Adelaide delisted forwards Martin Frederick and Dylan Williams but has committed to reselecting Williams in the rookie draft. Frederick, a product of the club’s Next Generation Academy, played 14 games after debuting against St Kilda in 2021. He played six games this season. against the Gold Coast in Round 15. Williams, 21, was drafted in 2019 but played just one game in 2021. He played every game for Port Adelaide in the SANFL this season, kicking 20 goals.
Adelaide delisted James Rowe, Ben Davis, and Brett Turner. Rowe was drafted in 2020 and kicked 27 goals in his 36 games as a small forward while Davis was drafted in 2016 and played 11 AFL games as both a forward and rebounding defender. Turner was picked up in the midseason draft this season but did not manage any senior games. The club is considering redrafting him as a rookie.