Player name: Michael Hibberd
Current club: Essendon Bombers
Potential club: Hibberd looks Melbourne bound, with the Demons expressing interest in the classy half-back long before he announced he’d be seeking a trade this October. The Bombers are notoriously difficult to deal with, however, so landing at his preferred destination is not necessarily a foregone conclusion. Essendon though, will be looking to continue their strong PR game and they won’t be able to do that if they’re playing hardball on a wantaway player that they wronged. Hibberd ending up at any other club would be a surprise.
The original price: Michael Hibberd was a late bloomer, and was selected by Essendon with the fourth overall pick in the 2011 Preseason Draft.
The Good: Hibberd is the modern prototype running defender. A quality ball user, Hibberd is a kick-first, rebounding weapon. He’s also durable, having played 62 of a possible 66 games from 2013-2015, and after missing the entire of 2016, should hit the 2017 preseason ready to go. At 26 he’s in his prime, and has five years of good football ahead of him.
The Bad: He’s a defender in name only. Hibberd’s strength is certainly winning his own ball, rather than preventing his opponent from doing the same. He’s often beaten one-on-one on a lead, he applies limited pressure and has averaged less than a tackle and a half per game over his career. He’s not particularly fast, and he’s missed 12 months of football, so while he may be fresh, there’s no guarantee he’ll immediately be at his best. His 2015 output was also down on his 2014 season, so it’s been close to two years since he’s actually been at his best.
What his club wants: Essendon were initially looking for a first round draft pick, but coach John Worsfold has tempered those expectations a little in recent weeks, noting that “a pick in the early second round would be fair for us [Essendon].” The Bombers have also indicated that they could be interested in a replacement player for Hibberd, which could open up the door for various possibilities, particularly if a third AFL club was to get involved.
What he’s worth: The Bombers are right on the mark here. Hibberd is young enough that a year out of the game isn’t a significant concern, and while he’s never been in the All-Australian conversation, he’s not too far off the pace. As an established, quality rebounding half-back, he’s easily the best on the market. A second round draft selection for a proven, five year prospect in a critical area of the ground is fair money.
What we’d pay: Pick 19-24
Possible trade scenarios:
- Essendon trade Michael Hibberd to Melbourne for Pick 26
- Essendon trade Michael Hibberd to Melbourne; Melbourne trade Pick 26 to Port Adelaide; Port Adelaide trade Hamish Hartlett to Essendon
The Verdict: Hibberd wants out, and the Bombers are likely to push for a fair deal rather than stand in the way. If a three-way trade can be brokered to get Hibberd to the Demons, expect Melbourne to push hard to get that done. He’s likely to be moved on for slightly less than market value, due to Melbourne’s current draft pick stocks and a desire within Essendon to stay on the positive side of the media.
Star rating: 4/5
Hibberd is a quality player with time on his side, and among the best players available this Trade and Free Agency period. His offensive talents off half-back make up for his defensive shortcomings, and in the right system he could thrive.