Conventional wisdom suggests Brisbane cannot afford to lose emerging young forward Josh Schache. Or can it?
The 19-year-old has put contract talks on hold less than 18 months after joining the club via pick 2 at the 2015 national draft, and while the move has set tongues wagging, closer investigation reveals the Lions can turn a negative into a huge positive.
Already, Richmond has been linked to the former Murray Bushranger, who has played 17 games and kicked 16 goals since debuting in Round 1 last year. Offers north of $600,000 have been mooted.
But as unpalatable as it might seem to Lions’ fans to lose Schache – on top of the departures of former top-end draft picks James Aish, Sam Docherty, Elliott Yeo, Jared Polec and Jack Redden - it’s possible the Lions can emerge a winner from any potential trade.
Firstly, keeping a player who no longer wants to represent the jumper on a list can be disastrous.
Secondly, the potential draft boon – in what is viewed as a very strong top-end prospect draft year – created could possibly fast-track the Lions’ development.
With Richmond likely to finish somewhere in the bottom 10, the Tigers will hold two first round draft picks given they secured Geelong’s first pick after it was on-traded by Carlton in a complicated deal that saw Zach Tuohy end up a Cat, and Brett Deledio find his way to the GWS Giants.
Requesting both the Tigers' first round picks has to be the crux of any potential deal.
On top of that, the Lions’ projected bottom three finish will see it select in the top three at this year’s national draft. The icing is the fact Brisbane also holds Port Adelaide’s first pick (possibly top 10), which they received in exchange for pick 19 and pick 30 (from Gold Coast) last year.
On top of the potential for four picks inside the top 15, the Lions are also sitting on a goldmine in the form of academy prospect Connor Ballenden. A local product from University of Queensland, Ballenden is a 200cm key position forward who is viewed as a potential top five national draft selection.
While Schache was very public in his desire to join the Lions given the connection through his late father Laurence who played 64 games for the club, behind the scenes there were some reservations about the move north in the lead up to the 2015 draft.
Given the presence of star in the making Eric Hipwood, and the steady development of Jono Freeman and Michael Close, the Lions are at least reasonably placed to cover the key forward post. Add in Ballenden and they will be even better prepared in a two years time.
Of course if Schache has a change of heart and decides his future is in Brisbane then the club would welcome his signature.
But either way the Lions hold the whip hand.