The future of Gold Coast star Gary Ablett has finally been decided, with his move back to Geelong sealed with just half an hour to go in the AFL trade period.
Deadline day's big trades:
- Gary Ablett leaves Suns, joins Geelong
- Jake Stringer leaves Western Bulldogs, joins Essendon
- Bryce Gibbs leaves Carlton, joins Adelaide
- Charlie Cameron leaves Adelaide, joins Brisbane
Gary Ablett had signalled to the Suns in late 2016 that he wanted to go home to Geelong.
"I'm excited to return to where it all began and to get around the club and my new teammates in due time," Ablett said in a statement.
The Suns rejected his request last year, but after a year of speculation, Ablett announced in early October that he was set on securing a trade to the Cats.
Bargaining continued through the trade period, with talk of Geelong's Darcy Lang going to Gold Coast to help facilitate the move.
But in the end, the Cats gave up pick 19 and a second-round selection from 2018 in exchange for Ablett, pick 24 and a fourth-round pick in 2018.
"It was good that Gary ended up joining Geelong, it was no certainty all the way through the trade period, but in the end the Gold Coast have done what they'd said they would do," Geelong recruiting manager Stephen Wells told a media gathering.
"We've given up a bit to do that in next year's draft and this year's draft, but it's a great story coming back to Geelong, having won a best-and-fairest this year and still got plenty of good footy ahead of him."
The Suns farewelled their inaugural captain, who won the Brownlow at Gold Coast in 2013 to go with his medal at the Cats in 2009.
The decision brought to an end a tumultuous time for Ablett, whose sister Natasha died a week ago.
"It saddens me deeply to have to say goodbye to my beautiful sister who will always be apart of our family," Ablett said in a statement.
"We will miss her everyday! Her gentle spirit, her generosity, her humility and her big smile will never be forgotten."
The Cats understandably were delighted to have him back on board.
"We are very pleased to have Gary return to the club and the Geelong community," Geelong general manager of football Simon Lloyd said.
"Gary is still playing exceptional football, and we believe he improves our team. He obviously has a long association with the club and to have Gary back, playing so well is an exciting day for everyone involved with the club.
"We know in talking to Gary that he is thrilled about coming back to Geelong."
Stringer a Bomber as Cameron joins Brisbane
Jake Stringer has left the Western Bulldogs on the final day of the AFL trade period, with the forward being traded to Essendon.
The want-away forward was one of the big stories of the trading period, with the relationship between him and the Bulldogs breaking down.
It took a three-way trade to get the deal done, with Essendon sending picks 25 and 30 to the Bulldogs to secure Stringer's services, with the forward signing on for a four-year deal until the end of the 2021 season.
The Bulldogs also engaged in an exchange of picks with Carlton, swapping picks 28 and 30 and a future second-round selection, for picks 16 and 40.
"The move to Essendon is a great opportunity and new beginning for me both on and off the field," Stringer said.
"I'm focused on being the best footballer, parent and person I can be, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity in front of me.
"I want to thank the Bulldogs, and their amazing fans, for the support they provided me over the past five years. They will always hold a special place in my heart.
"I'm excited about the opportunity at Essendon, they play a great brand of football, and I can't wait to get in and start earning the respect of my new teammates who are determined to achieve success."
Stringer played 89 games for the Western Bulldogs, kicking 160 goals. Earlier in the trade period the Bombers had traded in Devon Smith from GWS and Adam Saad from Gold Coast.
Small forward Charlie Cameron has left the Crows to join Brisbane with Adelaide receiving pick 12 at this year's draft in return.
Cameron was born in Mount Isa and recently told the club he wanted to be traded to Brisbane for family reasons.
The 23-year-old played 73 games for the Crows after joining the club through the 2013 rookie draft.
In a statement, the Adelaide Football Club said it had "allowed" Cameron to join Brisbane on "compassionate grounds".
"Charlie has brought his teammates, coaches and Adelaide fans plenty of joy during his time with us," Adelaide list management and strategy general manager Justin Reid said.
"We recognise his desire to be closer to family and friends in Queensland and wish him all the very best for the future."
Hodge to Lions, Gibbs to Adelaide
Luke Hodge officially extended his career, with the former Hawthorn captain — whose retirement was honoured after the Hawks' final game of 2017 before he decided to play on — traded to Brisbane.
The Lions received Hodge and pick 44, in exchange for picks 43 and 75.
After the official deadline of 2:00pm AEDT, Gold Coast sent pick two to Fremantle in exchange for Lachie Weller and pick 41, the Suns released Brandon Matera to the Dockers for a future round three selection, and Brisbane sent Josh Schache to the Western Bulldogs in return for picks 25 and 40.
Also sealed after the official deadline were a couple of pick exchanges.
The Lions sent picks 20 and 52 to Richmond in exchange for picks 15 and 52, while North Melbourne received pick 46 and a future third-rounder in return for two future third-round selections.
The day had kicked off with Adelaide and Carlton finally reaching agreement to send Blues midfielder Bryce Gibbs to West Lakes.
West Coast and Gold Coast exchanged picks, with the Eagles giving up their first-round pick in 2018 and pick 50 for this year, and the Suns releasing picks 21, 26 and 37.
The Dockers added GWS defender Nathan Wilson, who was traded to Fremantle with pick 71 in exchange for pick 57 and the team's second-round selection for 2018.
The Sydney Swans and Collingwood agreed to send Sam Murray, pick 70 and a third-round selection in 2018 to the Pies in exchange for a second-round pick for next year.