AFL must allow trading on draft day and future picks

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GWS Giants at the 2011 AFL Draft (Slattery Images)

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With the NFL draft just completed, maybe it’s to revisit the possibility of the AFL introducing trading during the actual draft and also allowing the trading of future draft picks.

Before everyone starts with the old “why are you trying to Americanise our game” accusation, remember we already see the influence of American sports on our game. The draft and salary cap was based on U.S sports, in particular the NFL. Also broadcasting rights and now free agency were also based on the American model.

We do not need to copy the States as we already have a great game, just pick the things that work and can make our game even better.

The AFL has been reluctant in the past to allow draft day trading and even more reluctant to allow trading future draft picks. The reason for the reluctance is that some clubs may mortgage the future to help save careers that desperately need to win now. After all it could be very tempting for a struggling coach or list manager to forfeit future picks for players /picks that could help now and help them in their last contract year.

But the reality these days is that no club would allow a struggling coach or even list manager the sole responsibility to make crucial decisions that may directly affect the club years down the track.

My proposal for trading future draft picks is to limit the picks to one year. So trading prior to the 2012 November draft would be limited to that draft and the 2013 draft only.

When trading season opens in early October clubs can trade for effectively two drafts worth of picks. Trading would continue until the end of November.

What may you ask would be the point of this and what benefit would it be to the competition?

Well the just completed NFL draft saw a staggering 27 trades completed including eight during the first round. Obviously with less clubs and less picks there would be less trades in the AFL.

But the biggest benefit to clubs would be that it would allow greater flexibility.

In the NFL draft one of the biggest moves saw the Jacksonville Jaguars trade up to the No 5 position to snare the best wide receiver Justin Blackmon, a position the Jaguars have always been chronically weak in.

Let us take a scenario in the futuristic 2016 AFL draft. After a couple of ordinary bottom six finishes, the Cats are about to decide what to do with its second pick in the draft, early in the second round. The next three best players available on pure talent are three young athletic ruckmen. A position the Cats are very strong in, unlike several clubs that are desperately seeking ruckmen. The Cats have holes in several other positions and are looking at selecting a midfielder.

At this point wouldn’t it be more beneficial for the Cats to trade their next pick to a team desperate for a ruckman? To trade down to a spot that they know will still see them pick up their preferred midfielder and possibly an additional pick. In fact both teams would be better off.

The increased flexibility makes it easier for teams to fill needs. A top club, chock full of depth may be more willing to trade a future pick now than a lower club that has needs now.

It also makes draft and trading time more intriguing and more strategic. Some clubs may assess that the following year’s draft is more rich in talent at a particular position and rather than spend that late third round pick on a raw, more risky ruckman, they may decide to trade for a future pick where talented ruckmen may be more abundant.

With the introduction of free agency in October there may see more player movement, but players with under eight years at a club would still find it difficult to move clubs if they feel they are not getting a fair go at their present club.

Having more choices (i.e more picks to trade) would allow more trades simply because teams will have more to offer, trades that in the past have bogged down and left all parties disappointed.

The possibility of a big trade would see interest in the actual draft sky rocket.

With free agency and extended trading, the off season would be two months of sheer bliss for football fans. Footy would still be prominent in the back pages and make the wait for the next season that more shorter. Importantly for the AFL it would mean more coverage at the expense of other sports. That may be too enticing to resist.

The AFL is now a year-round beast. From the pre-season Cup to the draft, it's always on. What's on your Christmas wishlist for 2015? What are your reflections on the year that was? If you're feeling inspired, you can share it with other Roarers by submitting an article.
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