The Blues have taken an interest in Cerra, not surprising given his roll call in midfield by Sam Walsh and Patrick Cripps, daylight and then? Maybe Ed Curnow or, if you believe in him, eventually Paddy Dow.
But the most fascinating possibility is the Tigers.
Cerra grew up in a yellow and black home, as a Richmond supporter. I suppose if Jack Riewoldt, Dusty Martin, and Trent Cotchin pestered you with stories about Richmond’s exceptionalism, you’d find it hard not to be impressed.
But if Cerra is as astute in his decision-making off the field as he is on the field, it would be wise to sidestep Richmond’s option, at least this time.
Richmond, which has one of the top list managers in Blair Hartley, should do the same. The Tigers shouldn’t be chasing Cerra either.
On the surface, one can see why a Cerra and Richmond union can be attractive to both parties: Cerra, at 187cm, has the largest body that the Tigers do not have in abundance.
If they got hooked on Cerra, couldn’t you give them a young and talented midfielder, who completed his apprenticeship, helping to extend his window of leadership, while the legendary core of the 2017-2021 team is still around?
Maybe. That is the case of Cerra. The case against pursuing him, however, is more compelling.
The history of recent AFL dynasties is that they last about five years before the onset of decline, whether gradual or rapid, when the stars hit 30 and the gravitational pull of the draft drags the super team down.
The Brisbane Lions fell off the cliff in 2005 after four consecutive big finals.
But the most relevant comparison for the Tigers is the team led by Damien Hardwick’s close teammate Alastair Clarkson.
In 2016, Hawthorn retired in the second week of the final against the Bulldogs, ending his bid for a fourth consecutive flag.
Faced with a series of aging champions, the Hawks made the bold decision to ditch Jordan Lewis (Melbourne) and Sam Mitchell (West Coast, on a sabbatical as coach); the following year, Luke Hodge retired, only to re-cheer in the colors of the Lion.
As these club legends drifted away, the Hawks staged a notable business heist, acquiring both Jaeger O’Meara from the hapless Gold Coast Suns and Tom Mitchell from the Swans.
Mitchell was cheap on draft cost, just pick 14. O’Meara effectively cost the (future) first round of 2017, plus Bradley Hill, a heavy price for a midfielder suffering a major knee injury.
Hawthorn can rightly say that Mitchell won a Brownlow and when he’s in shape, O’Meara is his best player.
But hindsight suggests that the O’Meara and Mitchell purchase did not fit Hawthorn’s demographic and rebuilding imperatives. Five years later, that couple have spent their best years at a club that has not competed once for first place, only reaching the final in 2018.
If they see success, it will be in a Shane Crawford-style twilight.
Cerra should pick a team that is riding a wave of successes (Tom Lynch and Dion Prestia timed it perfectly), not one that has taken on the glorious breaker.
The Tigers are better placed than 2016’s Hawthorn, yes. They have Shai Bolton (22), Jayden Short (25) and Noah Balta (21), plus players like Callum Coleman-Jones and largely untested youngsters from the 2018-19 and 2020 drafts.
But the history and demographics of the list still suggest that they will find it difficult to stay in contention for the flag after this year.
Riewoldt and Shane Edwards turn 33 this October. Cotchin is 31, Dusty turned 30 last week, Dylan Grimes will turn 30 this month. David Astbury is 30 and Bachar Houli, 33, could be finishing up. Even Lynch and Prestia turn 29 in October. Bolton is the only final grade A student under the age of 25.
One condition: recruiting Cerra would be more feasible if Cotchin suddenly retired, or in the unlikely scenario that Bolton sought a trade with Fremantle.
However, the lesson of history is clear. Teams dropped from the heights of multiple flags don’t defy gravity, and the sooner they invest in the draft, the path the Hawks avoided in 2016, only to end up in a tougher rebuild four years later, the faster they’ll see a rebirth. .
Ok Geelong levitated, but they have had very unusual circumstances: one is named Patrick Dangerfield, others are named Tom Stewart, Tim Kelly and Jeremy Cameron. Even then, they haven’t won a flag since 2011.
For the first time in a long time, the Tigers will enter this postseason with a powerful draft hand. Their first pick is approaching 10-12, and they have Geelong’s first pick, plus St Kilda’s second pick and their own.
The logical play for Richmond is to head to the draft.
Fremantle, furthermore, probably won’t accept the 10-12 pick for Cerra. They will demand a top 5-6 pick or first two rounds. The Tigers shouldn’t jump on that.
What is Cerra’s best option? He should stay with the Dockers for another two seasons, as they appear to be on the rise. He will have a better range of options if he wants to leave after 2023, or he can extend into free agency (2025).