Following last year’s elimination final heart-stopper, I put pen to paper on how I believed the Eagles managed to short-circuit the Power, and snatch victory at the death.
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There’s an issue lingering in the backdrop of tonight’s clash between Collingwood and St Kilda. And like just about everything to do with this game – the marketing, the media attention – Luke Ball is in the middle of it.
His move from the Saints to the black and white has been intrinsically linked to the debate around free agency, given the fact he was able to move from one club to another outside of trade week. (When St Kilda couldn’t agree to any trades, he left the club and entered the national draft, where the Pies nabbed him with pick 30.)
For the uninitiated, free agency is where players are able to move clubs freely after a certain number of years of service to their existing club.
That’s not to say that player’s club won’t be compensated, mind you. Just like in the next few years with the Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney, clubs losing uncontracted players would receive an additional draft pick. That mightn’t be the best value a club can get for that player, but as St Kilda would undoubtedly attest, it’s better than nothing.
The main point of conjecture between the AFL and the AFLPA – who have been pushing for this for years – is perceived to be just how many years of service would be required before a player becomes a free agent.
Would it be seven years (freeing up stars like Adam Cooney at the end of the year), eight years (freeing up the likes of Brendan Goddard and Jobe Watson), nine years (freeing up the kids from the ’01 super draft like Luke Hodge and Gary Ablett) or even ten years?
Somewhere in between – either eight or nine – seems to be about right. Even if only the eight-year option have helped out our mate Ball.
But what seems less straightforward amid the AFL and AFLPA’s differences is the issue of third-party player payments. These are deals outside the salary cap that help line the pockets of star players.
The most pertinent example is Carlton sponsor Visy and its sponsorship deal with Chris Judd, which has (rightly) attracted a number of cynics.
If free agency is introduced such controversial practices could very well become far more prominent. Even if it isn’t, the fact they are happening now should be of at least some level of concern.
And that’s certainly the view the AFL have adopted. According to The Age, the league have proposed introducing a cap on such deals, however this has been protested by both the AFLPA and player agents.
Unfortunately for the players, if they want major change, something has to give.
Third-party deals, it would seem, is the logical sacrifice.