AFLPA and player power: good and bad
Brent Moloney's management will test the free agency waters (Image: Slattery Images)
Since its humble beginnings in 1974, the AFL Players Association has grown to become a significant force.
The game will soon experience the effects of two of its important initiatives.
Firstly, free agency is coming and according to one player manager “it will change the landscape forever”.
It will give fringe and unhappy players the option to move. I think it’s exciting and invigorating for the competition to have some level of voluntary movement.
Here’s hoping, however, that it doesn’t descend into the soulless trade in players that goes on in the US; a model that aggressive player managers exploit and prosper under.
One Management’s Bruce Kaider will be unashamedly shopping his client, Melbourne best and fairest winner Brent Moloney, around before he makes a decision on any new offer from the Demons. There was nothing from Moloney expressing a desire to be a Demon for life or wanting to repay their faith in him. Just Kaider’s: “He might end up staying and be very happy.”
In what will become a standard line in the years to come Kaider explained: “We will have some conversations with other clubs. My view is if he [Moloney] doesn’t test the water of free agency, he is doing himself an injustice.”. The fans of NRL clubs have long become accustomed to hearing such things, and accepting the regular departure of favourite players.
Let’s hope it doesn’t also eventually lead to a distancing of players, club and the AFL to the extent that we experience strikes and lockouts as has occurred in the US.
In March I wrote an article, slightly tongue in cheek, on the almost absurd loyalty expressed by AFL players towards their clubs. Despite all the hoo-ha over contract renewals and the ominous presence of clubs intent on poaching, star players almost never leave the club that spawned them.
The players will often explain that their reasons for staying, besides winning a premiership, are to play with mates, to be near home and to be a one team player: all noble reasons.
Hopefully loyalty to a club and its supporters will still have some influence over players in the future. Kaider also said that “the days of a player playing ten years for one club are behind us. It’s a reality.”
Well not yet it isn’t. A raft of star AFL players have just re-signed, expressing the desire to be one club players.
The AFLPA has also been aggressively pursuing information on the effects of concussion in the game. Its general manager Ian Prendergast, will soon travel to the US to discuss with other player associations the research into chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) which is brain damage caused by repeated head trauma.
The condition, which can only be confirmed by a post-mortem examination, has been found in several ex-NFL players who died prematurely.
This should assist the AFLPA, of course, in protecting its players through campaigning for rule changes and proper treatment of concussion but it could also have drastic legal ramifications. CTE is the basis of a current lawsuit by former players against the NFL, and its clubs.
There have been no suspected cases of CTE in ex-AFL players although Essendon legend Tim Watson has offered to donate his brain to a “brain bank” for research, and has encouraged others to follow suit.
Last year former Demon Daniel Bell submitted a claim for compensation after brain scans confirmed a deterioration in his cognitive function resulting from multiple concussions.
We’ll just have to wait and see.