Would an AFL mid-season trade window work?

Ben Waterworth Roar Guru

By Ben Waterworth, Ben Waterworth is a Roar Guru

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9 Have your say

    Tyrone Vickery of the Tigers shows his emotions after losing the AFL Round 17 match between the Richmond Tigers and the Gold Coast Suns at Cazalys Stadium, Cairns. Slattery Images

    Tyrone Vickery of the Tigers shows his emotions after losing the AFL Round 17 match between the Richmond Tigers and the Gold Coast Suns at Cazalys Stadium, Cairns. Slattery Images

    It’s Round 11. Richmond is hoping to play finals for the first time in nine years and sits half a game outside the top eight. Disaster strikes. First-choice ruckman Angus Graham goes down with a season-ending knee injury. He joins fellow ruckman Andrew Browne on the Tigers’ injury list.

    What do you do?

    Do you throw Tom Derickx in the deep end, even though he’s far from ready to play in the AFL? Or do you force natural forward Tyrone Vickery to play in the ruck for the majority of the game?

    Or do you make the most of the AFL’s new mid-season trade period? Do you surrender a second-round draft pick for a legitimate ruckman? Do you approach North Melbourne and work out a way to lure Hamish McIntosh – an injury prone yet proven ruckman who has lost his spot in the senior side – to the club?

    This is the dilemma AFL clubs could face sooner rather than later.

    The idea of a mid-season trade period arose during a meeting between AFL executives and club CEO’s last Thursday. Melbourne CEO Cameron Schwab was the man who raised the idea and it was well received by the majority of clubs.

    The AFL is reportedly very open-minded to a mid-season trade window and will assess whether it’s a realistic possibility in coming months. If it’s approved, we could see it implicated as early as next season, however that’s unlikely seeing free agency will be introduced in 2012.

    A mid-season draft was trialled between 1990 and 1993, but former AFL CEO Ross Oakley scrapped the idea in his first year in office. Oakley spoke about his decision for the first time in 2010, describing the mid-year draft as a failure and cited a distinct lack of player and club support.

    But it’s back. And it could be here to stay.

    So how would an AFL mid-season draft or trade window look?

    It would fall midway through a home-and-away season and potentially allow a player to play for one team in Round 11 and another in Round 12. Clubs could use the draft picks it had at the end of the year to trade, as well as its own players.

    Many pundits believe the window shouldn’t be restricted to AFL clubs either. Players from second-tier competitions, such as the VFL, SANFL and WAFL, need to be given the best possible opportunity to make their mark. We’d discover more unbelievable footy stories, like Michael Barlow, James Podsiadly, Tendai Mzungu and Paul Puopolo, just to name a few.

    Now the burning question: will it work?

    The biggest advantage of a mid-season draft would be if a club suffered multiple injuries to players in the same position.

    Brisbane captain Jonathan Brown believes it will give clubs a genuine chance of being competitive if injuries do occur.

    ‘At the moment, our sport is too reliant on good draft picks and not having injuries,’ he said on The Footy Show last Thursday night.

    ‘We need to create other avenues to make sides better, or to repair your list throughout the season.’

    A trade or draft window at the halfway point of the season would also stimulate plenty of interest from the footy public.

    The AFL community is infatuated by trade week at the end of the season. It only runs for five days and clubs are always hesitant at the trade table. But it always generates intrigue and fascination, even if nothing happens.

    By implementing a mid-season trade period, even more interest surrounding players moving clubs would be stimulated. If a team is on the verge of making the eight, a new player might give the team spice and impetus to make a charge towards the end of the season.

    However there are numerous hurdles the AFL would have to clear to get a mid-season trade period up and running.
    Perhaps the biggest issue would be loyalty – one of the most controversial and frequently used words in AFL circles.

    Loyalty has been preached to AFL players for an eternity, but a mid-season trade period goes against the well-known AFL faithfulness.

    Yes the introduction of free agency gives you the sense the AFL is now willing to push the loyalty boundaries. But trading a player mid-season is almost an offence to the culture the AFL has created over many years.

    Then there’s contracted players. Would they be allowed to move? Would players only in the final year of their contracts be allowed to move?

    Could clubs recruit players on a part-time loan, meaning they would have to return to their original club by the end of the season?

    Another concern would be players bringing inside knowledge of their old club to other clubs.

    ‘I know one issue that has been raised in the past have been with players asking about the intellectual property that’s held within a club in terms of players shifting from clubs understanding game plans and the like,’ said AFL Players Association CEO Matt Finnis.

    ‘How do we protect the integrity of contracts? When you’ve got players potentially changing employers in the middle of the season it’s not as simple as saying it’s all positive.’

    The professionalism of AFL players would also be tested like never before.

    If a player was put up for trade during the mid-season window and no other club picked him up, both parties would need to show supreme maturity in the aftermath. Both club and player would have to quickly restore faith in each other, otherwise the relationship would be awkward.

    For all the naysayers out there, here’s the most important bit: a club doesn’t have to trade if it doesn’t want to. If it isn’t worried about the depth of its list, it doesn’t have to enter the draft.

    The potential is there for a mid-season draft and the benefits for individual players sound juicy. However the AFL must broadly consider what the model looks like and consider all of the implications.

    Whatever the final decision on a mid-season draft, it shouldn’t be rushed.

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    The Crowd Says (9)

    • Roar Guru

      August 10th 2011 @ 7:55am
      The_Wookie said | August 10th 2011 @ 7:55am | ! Report

      Id like to see it as a replacement for persons on a long term injury list or season ending injury only. Topping up the list with required players until the usuals become available should be the way to go. Im not in favour of a full on mid year draft for everyone.

    • August 10th 2011 @ 9:52am
      Seano said | August 10th 2011 @ 9:52am | ! Report

      Why not a midseason draft but not mid season trade. then you have the ability to get a player from the second tier but noone is changing teams mid season in the AFL, perfect! Though you may get some round 11 tanking for a higher spot!

      • August 10th 2011 @ 10:47am
        Martin M. said | August 10th 2011 @ 10:47am | ! Report

        Midseason draft? You’ll have Leigh Mathews talking about Serfs again. Possibly a trade window until about round 12 might be the go. With Roughead out for the season, if Hale had suffered a worse injury in round 8 and also been lost for the season, the Hawks could have possibly talked turkey with Essendon for a Bellchambers deal. Gives Mike Sheahan something to get excited about, too.

        Surely second tier players who have gone on with their lives mostly in fulltime employment after missing out on a list, or told more than once that they ‘re not good enough, have earned the right to decide what they’ll do, or where they’ll play if contacted by a club during a season.

    • August 10th 2011 @ 10:53am
      Bayman said | August 10th 2011 @ 10:53am | ! Report


      There’s no doubt the mid-season draft would work because the AFL, and the clubs, would find a way to make it work. If, however, the question becomes, “Is it a good thing?”, then the answer is, in my opinion, a resounding NO!

      The AFL has already implemented a handicap system called the draft and the salary cap. This idea now introduces the concept that those two original initiatives are too extreme. Clubs need to be able to manouvre outside those two restrictions. Why so?

      If Richmond, or any other club, loses a player to a long term injury then all I can say is “Welcome to professional sport”. Shit happens!

      Given a high percentage of injuries are actually caused by team-mates then why shouldn’t a club just wear it. Friendly fire is a natural hazard and a lack of skill from team-mates another. My favourite injury in recent years was that which occurred to the unfortunate David Hille from Essendon. I use the term “favourite” advisedly. Hille was thirty metres in the clear as a team-mate, also in the clear, kicked to ball to him from 35-40 metres away. The team-mate, now long forgotten, put the ball so far above Hille’s head that he was forced to jump, with one arm outstretched to gain maximum height, just to get a hand on the ball. He came down on his stiffened leg and, bang, a knee reconstruction awaited and the season was gone. All in the first couple of minutes of the ANZAC Day clash with Collingwood.

      Hille is a pretty large target and it defied belief that an AFL footballer who kicks the ball for a living could not hit that big a target when both players were on their own and in the clear without pressure. It raises the question, given this article and its possibilities, “Why should Essendon be given any opportunity to cover for Hille’s absence when it was Essendon itself, via its unskilled player, who caused the problem in the first place?”

      Had I been Essendon’s coach that day I have no doubt I would have grabbed the player that kicked the ball to Hille and shoved his head down the dunny and flushed. I would have then reminded said lack-of-talent that in future if it came down to a season ending knee injury to either Hille or him could he kindly ensure it was him. No talent runners are a dime a dozen and wouldn’t be missed.

      Now, back to the subject at hand. Given the AFL’s ability to contradict itself and continually change the level of the playing field I, for one, have no doubt that a mid-season draft may occur one day and probably sooner rather than later. If such a thing occurred my own view is that it should only involve players from outside the AFL. In other words, the VFL, the SANFL, the WAFL etc.

      Even then, those players should be returned to their original clubs at season’s end. If an AFL club wishes to retain such a player it must draft him in the current manner and make him a full time player for that club.

      Of course, this approach raises the problem of AFL clubs arbitrarily weakening the second tier clubs which may have their own ambitions to fulfill within their particular competition. I’d have no problem with such a player staying in Perth or Adelaide and to hell with the AFL. The truth is though that most players still have ambitions related to AFL football and most would accept the opportunity. As such, the AFL would be asking a lot of a local league club to defer its own ambitions in favour of the AFL ambitions of its individual player. Many such clubs would not be happy and rightly so. After all, what’s in it for them.

      The AFL, of course, has virtually ruined those state competitions and that has been the case since the introduction of the Eagles and the Crows, let alone Fremantle and Port Adelaide.

      It still amazes me that Victorians expect everyone else to pay the price for their greed and ambition. The old VFL, now the AFL, has not been touched, and really only enhanced, by the change to an AFL. Fitzroy aside, and to a lesser degree South Melbourne, the Victorians have experienced no pain at all (even the Swans continued as a complete entity and was just re-located). Only Fitzroy really suffered. But if one can………

      Perhaps the best solution to the dilemma is to have less teams rather than more. By all means keep the interstate teams but let’s scrap some of the Melbourne based teams. After all, the rest of the country don’t need them – nor care for them. I’d even let the Victorians decide for themselves which teams should just disappear – or maybe join the VFL.

      With less teams the squads can be increased to provide more cover for injury. The gap between the haves and have nots may be decreased and the game become interesting again.

      And there will not be a need for a mid-season draft.

    • Columnist

      August 10th 2011 @ 11:49am
      Alfred Chan said | August 10th 2011 @ 11:49am | ! Report

      I voiced this idea in April. http://www.theroar.com.au/2011/04/08/revolutionising-the-trade-period/

      Although injuries are unpredictable, it comes down to list management. With the rookie list the way it is, there is no reason why coaches cannot plan for things like this to happen. Melbourne is a prime example of a well managed rookie list. In the event that Jamar and Martin both go down, mature aged rookie Robert Campbell can step straight into the role.

      Rookie lists are inundated with young midfielders which is pointless because there are so many of them on the senior list which struggle to get a game. A good list is one with a contingency plan in the event of injury.

    • August 10th 2011 @ 2:49pm
      brendan said | August 10th 2011 @ 2:49pm | ! Report

      They used to have a mid season clearance proviso and from memory John Scarlett left Geelong and joined South Melbourne.It is a good idea.

    • Roar Pro

      August 10th 2011 @ 3:39pm
      Phil Coorey said | August 10th 2011 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

      “Would an AFL mid-season trade window work?”

      Works in most over seas sports – the baseball trade window just closed – it’s a great time of the year

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