Ryder, Gone?

Reports suggesting Patrick Ryder could be on the move pose a serious problem for the Essendon Football Club. At this stage, media hysteria is to be expected on any Essendon story, so it is prudent to ignore it. Wolves and crying spring to mind. That said, the player and club do face a dilemma.

In 2012, Ryder signed a long term contract which still has 2 years to run. It was a wise move by the club to lock in a rising star before he fully realised his potential. Ryder, in turn, gained job security.

A couple of years on, Ryder is unarguably underpaid.

Following the retirement of David Hille and the ankle injury to Tom Bellchambers, Ryder has assumed the number one ruck position. Consistently outstanding performances have cemented that role to a point where it was surprising to see him overlooked for All Australian honours. His leap can account for any shortcoming in height and his mobility around the ground effectively makes him an extra midfielder.

Ryder in the forward line is an even more worrying prospect for opposition sides. No defender of his stature can compete for speed off-the-mark or ground-level work, while one who can will be considerably outsized. His leg is long and straight, offering something severely lacking in Essendon’s forward line, a goal kicking accuracy of 62%.

But, arguably, Ryder’s best position has been in defence. This is where he began his career, utilising his closing speed and reach to control the air, until his team required his abilities elsewhere.

Were cloning a possibility, Ryder would be the AFL prototype. He is a tall key position player with all the attributes; size, speed, athleticism and skill; that can dominate on any line. It would be a difficult task to find a list in the league which could not find a place for at least two Ryders in their best 22.

His attributes, and his current form, place him in high demand.

It would not be inconceivable for Ryder to command $1 million more than the value of his current contract over the same period, and far more into the future. It’s a financial offer Essendon would be unable to match. Retaining his services relies solely upon loyalty.

Ryder’s situation becomes analogous to Gary Abblet’s recruitment to Gold Coast, the offer would be too good to refuse. Nobody could begrudge him taking the money.

There is the minor matter of his existing contract which leaves his destiny in the hands of his club. Were he to request a trade to Brisbane, which has been floated due to family and anonymity reasons, the club would undoubtedly do their best to accommodate Ryder. Brisbane would, however, need to offer substantial compensation in return.

As for the scurrilous rumours that he could simply walk out, providing the club with no compensation. That is not on the table.

It is merely a ploy by a manager doing what managers do: trying to improve their bargaining position with respect to a possible trade, or a contract extension or renegotiation. It is a possible, although untested, loophole that Ryder would not exploit.

Consider the consequences of Ryder abandoning the club in those circumstances.

Removing a genuine A-grader from a building list on the verge of success would relegate the team to ongoing mediocrity. His roles in the ruck and forward line are both weaknesses of the club. They can ill-afford to lose his talent without adequate compensation.

Essendon would find themselves in the same position as St Kilda’s following the closure of their premiership window. A scenario which resulted in stars leaving under free agency or via the trade.

The futility would force Essendon players to reevaluate their futures and potentially follow suit, albeit purely for financial reasons or the pursuit of on-field success. A few key departures would consign the new recruits, aging veterans and loyal clubmen (that is, the majority of the list) to a fate worse than St Kilda. It would destroy the club’s premiership chances for upwards of a decade and risk the club’s first wooden spoon in over 80 years.

To invoke that clause, Ryder would have to harbour a level of hatred towards his club and teammates unimaginable by anyone outside of the filth in the media who manufacture and spread these very rumours based on purported health risks they know to be without medical merit.

It will not happen, yet the entire discussion has been framed as though the clause has already been exercised and authorised by the AFL.

This season could be Ryder’s last in the red and black. But if he cannot be persuaded to stay he will not destroy the club in the process. He will seek a fair trade, as did Stewart Crameri last season.

The same clause was available last trade season, yet the club fought and fought to secure the best possible deal for Crameri – pick 26, used to acquire rising star nominee Zach Merrett.

Even if Ryder chases a more rewarding contract, his goodwill towards the club should once and for all refute the scandalous reporting.

It won’t. Those advancing such arguments have repeatedly proven themselves unable to move with the facts.

Alternatively, if Ryder refuses a seemingly irrefusable offer, the refutation will be far more significant. It would be the ultimate vote of confidence in Essendon and its staff. Yet, even that would be ignored by the media.

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