With the trade period in full swing and some players' careers in the balance, we asked one of the Crows' most successful trade targets for an insight into the uncertainty that surrounds this part of the football calendar. 

Here, Sam Jacobs gives us a first-hand account of his trade experience. 

My trade journey

The first meeting happened at a little café in Docklands in June, 2009.

I was mid-way through my third season at Carlton and thinking seriously about returning home to SA to continue my AFL career.

The meeting was arranged by my manager at the time, and sitting across the table from me was Port Adelaide’s football manager Peter Rohde.

We spoke for the best part of an hour about where I was at in my career, what my goals were and my motivations for wanting to return to Adelaide.

Although I was ecstatic to be drafted by the Blues in 2006 and happy to move to Melbourne to pursue my childhood dream of play AFL footy, a little part of me always longed for the chance to do that in front of my family and friends every week.

There were four ruckmen on the list in my early years at Carlton. Robbie Warnock, Shaun Hampson, Matthew Kreuzer and myself and I was a fair way down the pecking order. In simple terms, Kreuzer was Pick 1 in the draft, Hampson was Pick 17 and Carlton had traded to bring Warnock across from Fremantle so I knew I had my work cut out for me to get a regular game.

I spent the first two full seasons playing in the VFL and was never even named an emergency for the AFL side.

But in 2009, I was able to put together a solid pre-season and debuted against Richmond in Round 1. I played four games and felt like I belonged at the level, but tore my plantar fascia against Sydney in Round 4 and missed the next 12 weeks.

It was during that time in rehab I began contemplating a return to SA.

I wasn’t homesick in Melbourne, I lived with Bryce Gibbs and Mark Austin, so I was never on my own, but I never quite felt like I belonged over there because outside of footy I didn’t have much else to do.

It wasn’t like I had my own place to maintain, and there was no country lifestyle to escape to - like I knew was always there for me on the Yorke Peninsula.

So I spoke to my manager about the possibility of coming home and playing for either the Crows or Power – one to be closer to friends and family, and two for more opportunity at AFL level.

I figured that, even if I wasn’t getting a game with the Crows or Port, then I could at least play SANFL footy with my local team the Eagles, as when I was out of the team at Carlton I was playing for the Northern Bullants and sometimes their reserves.

So that led to my first meeting with Rohdey in Melbourne. Even though I’d grown up barracking for the Crows, I was more than happy to play for the Power if it meant an opportunity to come back to Adelaide.

But at that stage they decided it wasn’t for them as they already had Matthew Lobbe and Jarrad Redden coming through along with Dean Brogan and Brendon Lade on the list.

I never even spoke to the Crows in 2009 because they already had strong cover in the ruck with Brad Moran, Ivan Maric and Jonathon Griffin, so I accepted that I was staying at Carlton providing they offered me another contract at the end of the 2009 season.

They did and I signed a one-year deal and played 13 games for the year, which was encouraging progress. But I still had that nagging desire to return home, so my manager struck up a conversation with both SA clubs and this time it was Adelaide who expressed some interest in discussing a move.

That was based on the fact that Griffin was more than likely to request a return home to WA to be closer to his family and, by year’s end, that’s what happened.

I finished the season at Carlton, including a strong elimination final against Sydney which then drew some renewed interest from the Blues, but they had no idea I was seriously contemplating a return home.

But even though I still had three weeks of the VFL season to go, once the AFL season was done my manager informed Carlton of my intention to return to SA. Brett Ratten was coach at the time and he spoke to me about staying the course with the Blues but my mind was made up and knowing Griffin was about to leave West Lakes I was committed to joining the Crows.

From that point I thought it would be a relatively straightforward exercise to be traded home but it ended up very different.

Both clubs would have spoken and I thought it would be done on the opening day or two of trade week, but it ended up taking until 10.30am on the final day.

By that stage Essendon had also indicated to me that if a deal wasn’t done and I would nominate for the pre-season draft, then they would seriously consider me as they had a pick before the Crows.

I met with Neil Craig and David Noble in Melbourne before going overseas on the Carlton footy trip, then returned home and had to stay patient throughout trade week and trust that a deal would get done.

The trade period can really drag out when you are waiting for something to happen. There is a lot of talk that goes on and it’s like 18 clubs playing a giant game of poker, and with every trade that gets done the more nervous you get about why yours hasn’t.

Finally on the last day of trade week I was at home in Ardrossan when my phone rang and it was my manager telling me the deal with the Crows had been done.

The Crows had given up Picks 33 and 67 in that year’s draft in return for me to play in the tri colours.

I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of relief then my feelings turned to excitement when I thought about what it would be like to play in front of my friends and family every second week.

I came to the Crows as a 22-year-old with just 17 games to my name and left as a 31-year-old with 201 and was grateful every day that I’d made the decision.