The case for AFL free agency
Former St Kilda captain Luke Ball has been left in no man’s land after Collingwood and the Saints failed to reach agreement on an equitable trade during this week’s negotiations.
Uncontracted and with significant service already given to the club that drafted him in 2001, Ball requested a trade to the Pies to further his career after Saints coach Ross Lyon limited his playing opportunities this season and without much prospect of further game time in 2010.
It should not be considered unreasonable for a player who has given eight years of quality service to his club to, having played out his contract, gain control of his destiny and seek a trade to a club of his choice.
Collingwood wanted Ball. Ball wanted Collingwood.
The Saints were happy to let him go providing they were compensated, yet Ball is not a contracted St Kilda player. They should have no further claim to him but under current rules, the Saints still dictate his future.
AFL football operations manager Adrian Anderson claimed that 23 completed trades during the week negate the need for free agency, suggesting most trades ultimately eventuate.
True, but free agency after a minimum period of service, perhaps 7 seasons as the AFLPA has mooted, gives greater autonomy to AFL players to determine their own careers, where they live and who they play for.
Claims lesser clubs would be disadvantaged by free agency are melodramtic, with the draft and salary cap remaining in place to ensure fairness across the soon to be 18 team competition.
Struggling clubs still get the cream of the nation’s emerging playing talent each season and would then be given a minimum seven years to develop and nurture them into great players on and solid citizens off field, presumably influenced by a club culture that the majority of then 25 year olds would wish to remain part of.
The numbers seeking free agency each year would be minimal.
In a competition where 18 year olds are sent, without choice, from one side of the country to the other simply to enter the AFL system, free agency for players 25 years and over should become a fundamental right for those who put the show on week in, week out.
For now, the AFL appear blind to it.
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