Six months ago Josh Deluca was deemed the best available player in the country when Carlton selected him with the first pick in the mid-season draft.
But despite playing the final six games of the season – more games than any of his cohort – the 23-year-old is without a home for the 2020 season.
The Blues delisted him midway through October and invited him to train with the club in November ahead of the National, Pre-Season and Rookie Drafts, before deciding to go in another direction.
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Foxfooty.com.au understands senior coach David Teague and footy boss Brad Lloyd visited his house on the morning of the rookie draft to inform the midfielder they would bypass him.
They chose Western Jets midfielder-forward Josh Honey and Gippsland Power medium-sized forward Fraser Phillips instead.
Of the 13 players who earned an opportunity at the end of Round 10, Cody Hirst is the only other player not to earn a deal for next season after he failed to play a game for Sydney.
Industry sources have speculated that it would have been better for Hirst to miss the mid-season draft, continue dominating underage footy, and then win an automatic two-year contract via the National Draft.
Although Deluca’s six matches – in addition to his four at Fremantle – meant he reached the pinnacle and Hirst didn’t, you could mount an argument he was worse off in the long-run because of the mid-season draft.
He broke into Carlton’s 22 in Round 18 and remained there, but his AFL dream now looks over.
Sydney expressed plenty of interest ahead of the mid-season rookie draft, while a few other Melbourne based clubs inquired before the Blues swooped, but not one AFL club has reached out to Deluca since he was delisted by Carlton.
Deluca played in four premierships in the WAFL before he moved to Melbourne this year. He won his first at Subiaco in 2014, two at Peel Thunder when he was on Fremantle’s list, and another last year.
Subiaco went back-to-back this year and are looking to sign Deluca for 2020.
But right now, it’s believed Deluca is considering remaining in Melbourne to play football and start a career in commercial property next year – he has three units to go in a property and evaluation degree.
An attractive job offer from the network of a VFL club may clinch his signature.
While Hirst was dumped by the Swans four months after earning his first AFL opportunity, every other player earned a one-year extension except for Deluca and Collingwood half-back John Noble, who received a two-year deal after playing in both of the Magpies’ finals.
The AFL is a cut-throat and ruthless business. But Deluca’s fate strongly indicates there are further tweaks required to find the right balance between player movement, club control and list management objectives.