Dual West Coast premiership star Chris Waterman wants Eagles recruiting staff to make an all-out bid to win a trade deal for disgruntled Fremantle forward Hayden Ballantyne.
The former Fremantle and Eagles assistant and WAFL head coach estimates that the livewire Ballantyne could be the best crumbing goal-shark at West Coast since the retirement of ace crumbling forward Phil Matera a decade ago.
Waterman coached Ballantyne at WAFL club and now Dockers affiliate team Peel Thunder for three years ahead of his recruitment to Fremantle, after winning the 2008 Sandover medal as best player in the local league.
Ballantyne, 29, continues to be linked with a move out of Fremantle despite having a year to run on his existing contract when he will be a free agent at the end of next season.
He is expected to be joined by popular veteran on-baller Michael Barlow, free agents Chris Mayne, and Zac Clarke as well as borderline Dockers regulars Matt deBoer, Alex Silvagni, Clancee Pearce, Tendai Mzungu and exciting youngster Ed Langdon, with decisions on their futures this month.
Waterman predicts a switch to another AFL club and especially bitter enemy West Coast could reignite Ballantyne’s career after successive seasons well below his goal-scoring and assisting finest that won All-Australian selection two years ago.
Ballantyne managed just 26 goals this season from 20 outings this year, as the Dockers tumbled to a dismal 16th on the league ladder with only four wins after he booted a paltry 15 majors from 15 games last year.
Waterman predicts a change of club can reinvigorate the feisty and competitive nature in Ballantyne after his 141 games at Fremantle.
“He could be a real X-factor as a dangerous forward with a spring back in his step at a new environment,” Waterman said.
The 1992 and 1994 Eagles premiership half-back says Ballantyne is a “different sort” of small forward to veteran West Coast goal source Mark LeCras, as well as a heavy tackling Jamie Cripps and opportunist Josh Hill.
Standing between the fiery Ballantyne and a career extension at a new club is the late stage of his controversial career and two successive seasons since his All-Australian selection as the game’s most dangerous small forward in 2014 with 49 goals.
But, Waterman says Ballantyne is a mentally tough character with a body capable of playing at least three more seasons.
Ballantyne should be offered a two-year contract by West Coast recruiting staff with enticement of a third season if he can accomplish pre-determined performance achievements in 2018, according to Waterman.
“He’d be a real bonus to West Coast, he’s just that lively crumbing opportunist forward they need,” he said.
“I coached him and I know what sort of string willed person and footballer he is.
“He can easily play another three or four years as a small forward in that Eagles forward line in front of their midfield.
“He could recapture that reliable crumbing and clever goal-kicking with a change of club.
“It’s probably just what he needs that change of environment.
“If West Coast don’t take him, I’d be surprised if there aren’t other clubs out there thinking the same things about what Ballas could offer their forward line.”
Waterman has his oldest son Alec on the Eagles playing list but has been on the long term injury list with a debilitating virus.
His other son Jake is a candidate to also become an Eagles father-son selection through this year’s draft in November.