On the Friday night before the 2017 AFL Grand Final, right before the beginning of the off-season exchange period, the story surrounding Western Bulldogs forward Jake Stringer reared it's ugly head as Stringer's ex-partner Abby Gilmore revealed to the Herald Sun why the couple split mid-way through the 2016 season.
Whilst the truth that was explained on Friday will no doubt come across as shocking, despicable on Jake's behalf and disheartening for all the Bulldogs supporters that looked up to Jake as one of the great's of this football club, I cannot stress how much respect I have for Abby for speaking out after holding it in for so long.
Some might not agree that she came out with it the way she did, but given that the club had seemingly gave up on Stringer with little to no reason given to the public, I thought her decision to come out and reveal what has happened between the two and why Stringer's performance on the field had been so poor.
It was revealed that it was during the 2016 season, Stringer had been having sexual relations with a 17-year old schoolgirl for up to four months - visiting the young girl's family home as much as three times a week, as well sending several other explicit images of himself to numerous other girls. To add some more misery to the story, it was also revealed that Stringer had blown six-figure sums of money on gambling - something that Stringer has done since he was just 16 years old.
To put it in short, Jake Stringer's addictions - both sex addiction and gambling addiction may end up costing him his career. When Luke Beveridge said that Stringer was up for trade, he came onto the AFL website's Trade Radio and expressed how he felt shocked and upset about it all, but it seemed obvious that the Western Bulldogs and coach Luke Beveridge have had enough of his antics. Even former Bulldogs' captain Robert Murphy expressed on radio that the Dogs had felt a 'sense of frustration' for a number of years.
What I found the most shocking out of all this, is that the higher-ups of the Western Bulldogs' organisation turned their backs on Gilmore when all of these antics blew up and left her to virtually fend for herself. However, several of Stringer's team mates stood up for her - something which I applaud greatly - and I'd sense this was where all the talks of infighting within the club and all the big losses midway through the year came about.
Whilst I'll never condone the actions of Stringer and perhaps my admiration and respect for him has taken a significant hit, all this behaviour is coming from a 23-year old man who is desperately seeking help. This is a man who has the talent to be a top-five player in the league and unfortunately, it's being flushed away because his ego has blown up so high, it's almost uncontrollable. I have no doubts that the club has made efforts to try and get his head straight, but it's clearly got to the point where the club can't go any further.
It must be said that Gilmore's admission to Stringer's misdemeanours came at a very bad time with the 2017 Trade Period almost here, but I've found four trade options in which the Western Bulldogs must consider before they offload Stringer for good. The Dogs have made it perfectly clear that despite the baggage that Stringer possesses, they want solid compensation for the former All-Australian.
Number Four - North Melbourne
North Melbourne faced a year of rebuild and looked towards the future of the club, with names such as Jy Simpkin, Declan Mountford, Ryan Clarke and Braydon Preuss all notable names that hold the key to the future. They made extraordinary bids to land Greater Western Sydney's Josh Kelly and Richmond's Brownlow Medal winning, premiership superstar Dustin Martin throughout the year, but were ultimately turned back. With Stringer in the perfect age-range for North and their rebuild, they would love to get someone as talented as Stringer.
North Melbourne Recieve: Jake Stringer
Western Bulldogs Recieve: 2018 First Round Pick, Taylor Garner
I originally had pencilled down having Jake Stringer exchanged for pick four, but North can't be that outrageously daft to accept that. Another rumour would see Stringer exchanged for Todd Goldstein, who fell so badly out of form, he was sent to the VFL, which is an extraordinary fall from grace from a man that was only an All-Australian a couple of years back.
I think a future first round selection as well as an emerging player such as Taylor Garner should be a adequate enough. Garner broke through in 2017, playing 18 of 22 games, averaging 16 disposals, four marks and three tackles a game, but the big question mark lies in the future first round selection. If North dramatically improves next year, then the Dogs could find themselves an extra first-round pick in the mid-10s, but if North continue to slide down the ladder, the Bulldogs might have a top-three pick on their hands. It'd be interesting to see what transpires, but if North are willing to take the gamble on Stringer, then they need to pull the trigger on their first-round pick for next year.
Number Three - St. Kilda
It was revealed a few weeks ago, shortly after the news broke of Jake Stringer and the club's shocking split, that St. Kilda coach Alan Richardson said that the he and the football club were interested in talking with Stringer about a change to the Saints. Stringer played his best game of 2017 against St. Kilda, kicking five goals in a 40-point win, so Richardson and the Saints know first-hand what he is capable of doing on the field. Whether or not all this news about Stringer has thrown the Saints off pursuing him, the addition to Stringer could propel the Saints to their first Finals appearance since 2011.
St. Kilda Recieve: Jake Stringer, Pick 9
Western Bulldogs Recieve: Pick 7, 2018 First Round Pick
I feel this is a win-win scenario here, as St. Kilda will still have two picks in the top 10 - currently they hold the seventh and eighth draft pick and the Bulldogs still hold a draft pick in the top 10. If the clubs pull the trigger on the trade, St. Kilda will hold picks eight and nine, whilst the Dogs will move up two spots on the trade table as well as hold St. Kilda's first round pick in 2018. The Saints could finish anywhere from fifth to 13th next year and if they finish in that lower end of the ladder, it could spell a massive win for the Bulldogs come the 2018 AFL Draft.
In terms of this year's draft, the Bulldogs would love to get their hands on some elite goal kicking talent as it has been one of the few constants that has been plaguing the side in 2017. If the Bulldogs could pick up a versatile forward such as Darcy Fogarty or a small talented forward/midfielder in Jack Higgins, then that's definitely a big tick for me. But at the moment, this all sounds like more of a pipe dream than reality, but you'll never know what can happen in the AFL's off-season
Number Two - Geelong
Geelong are fast emerging as one of the frontrunners to secure Stringer, but they have a roadblock in the way in the shape of Gary Ablett, with the former Cat and son of Geelong legend Gary Ablett Senior, requesting a trade back home after seven seasons of hell at the Gold Coast Suns. Indeed, his end at the Suns is very much the opposite of harmonious, with the Suns requesting that they get suitable compensation in return for letting Ablett go home and the Cats will want to both get Ablett back to the Cattery as well as land such a talent as Jake Stringer.
Geelong Recieve: Jake Stringer
Western Bulldogs Recieve: Daniel Menzel, Pick 33, 2018 Third Round Pick
The hard thing about having to deal with Geelong is that there aren't too many assets that the Cats have when it comes to trading. They don't have a first-round pick this year and the chances are if they are to do a deal with Stringer, it will most likely involve their future first round draft pick, but that would make dealings with the Suns all the more difficult as the Cats want Ablett and Ablett wants to go back to the Cattery and both parties have made it crystal clear.
I think two second round picks and a player sounds the reasonable option here, the Cats will get their man, and the Dogs will have some sound compensation. I'd love to see the Bulldogs pick up Daniel Menzel, who despite having had four ACL injuries, has proven to be a handy goal-kicking option, kicking 33.24 in 2016 and 40.16 this season. Not only does he have a knack for finding the goals, he can actually kick straight. Steven Motlop was also considered as trade bait, but he is far too inconsistent for mine and must be kept away. If the Dogs get Geelong's second round pick, it means that they will have picks 9, 26, 33 and 39 inside the top 40 and a future third round pick should prove to be the sweetner.
Number One - Essendon
Like the Cats, Essendon are firming as one of the favourites to land Jake Stringer. Imagine having Stringer partner up with Orazio Fantasia, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti and Joe Daniher - fellow forwards that can excite the crowd to no end? It could very much be possible, but the biggest factor is coming up with a deal that will entice Essendon's recruiting manager Adrian Dodoro who is one that always plays hard ball when it comes to trading. It was only a few years ago that this same guy wasn't willing to ship Stewart Crameri off to the Kennel for a second round pick until the final days, but it will be fascinating to see the Dogs play hard ball on Dodoro this time around.
Essendon Recieve: Jake Stringer, Pick 26, 2018 Second Round Pick
Western Bulldogs Recieve: Aaron Francis, Pick 11
Regardless of what happens here, I think that Essendon's pick 11 needs to be involved here. The Bulldogs are adamant that they will accept nothing less than a first-round pick, and I think having two picks in the top 15 will be something that appeals to the Bulldogs, but there will also need to be a few more barganing chips to be put in place. I'd love to see the Bulldogs acquire utility player Aaron Francis, who was only taken with the sixth pick in the AFL draft just a couple of years ago. Injuries have played a role as to why he has only played just five AFL games, his enormous upside, his versatility and his athleticism should appeal to the Bulldogs and he is only 20 years of age. But knowing Adrian Dodoro, he will want the Bulldogs to give up more.
To do this, the Bulldogs must be prepared to give up two second round picks - I tossed up the idea of dealing next year's first round pick up, but decided against it as Francis is still an unproven prospect and he could still potentially be a massive bust. Two second round picks, along with Jake Stringer should be enough to get the Dogs a Pick 11 and a very talented 20-year old with the potential to make it in the AFL.
If a deal can't be struck with any of these sides, there is always the possibility of retaining Stringer for 2018 and pray that the message has got into Jake's head - Square up or you're out for good. We've seen scenarios like this happen before, where wayward, yet talented stars were on their final chance with their respective football clubs, took the hint and proceeded to play some of their very best football.
A classic example is Steve Johnson, who had the talent to be a match-winning forward for Geelong all throughout the early 2000s, but his behavioural problems, particularly with alcohol, always caused headaches for Geelong and it had nearly reached it's end, with the club suspending Johnson for the first five games of the 2007 season for drunk and disorderly behaviour on Christmas Eve 2006. The club had seemingly given up on him, before his return on round six, and played a starring role at the club ever since, featuring in Geelong's premiership teams of 2007 and even took home the Norm Smith Medal for his best afield display in which he kicked four goals and recorded 23 disposals and nine marks - capping off a remarkable turnaround.
Of course, the situation with Stringer is much different to that of Stevie J's, but for me, there is always that little bit of hope that Stringer can turn his life and his football career around, but that won't start until he admits he needs the help he requires.