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Expansion has made AFL contracts a strange business

Roar Guru
14th September, 2011
4
1793 Reads

New GWS Giants player Tom Scully

Tom Scully looks on during a Melbourne Demons training session at AAMI Park. Slattery Images

On Monday, the AFL’s worst kept secret was made official when Melbourne’s Tom Scully officially joined the league’s newest franchise Greater Western Sydney Giants on a bumper six-year contract worth approximately $6 million. That’s not bad for a 20-year-old who’s played 31 games of senior AFL footy.

In fact, it’s fairly absurd considering the youngster will be the AFL’s highest earning player in 2012, ahead of the competition’s superstar Gary Ablett Jnr from Gold Coast.

What’s also absurd is among that top echelon of earners is the likes of code-hoppers Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau.

Expansion has brought about some strange times in the AFL.

Of course, as the point has been made, considering those figures, who can blame Scully for jumping at the opportunity. The issue isn’t in his decision but the way he’s handled it, apparently leading on his former club.

Whichever way you see it, it’s left a bitter taste for the Demons, with the club chief executive Cameron Schwab stating: “We’re talking about a player who was taken as a priority draft selection, who’s obviously being paid an extraordinary amount of money.

“Probably I’d say 30 or 40 per cent more than any other player’s ever been paid in 2012.” Wowsers!

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The reality is there was no way Melbourne could match that offer, let alone get anywhere near it, for a guy who has only completed two seasons of AFL footy.

It is somewhat a different story for established AFL stars such as Collingwood’s Dale Thomas, Dane Swan and Scott Pendlebury who all re-signed with their club in 2011 amidst reported GWS interest.

However, what must be acknowledged is this kind of scenario isn’t here to stay. It’s a rare event, simply related to the AFL’s expansion efforts which has enabled the two new clubs to throw big contracts around.

Unfortunately for Melbourne they’ve been on the wrong end of it in this instance, like Geelong were 12 months ago, but they’ll get their compensation with a first-round selection and a mid-first round pick.

So what do we do about this situation?

Well there’s not alot to be done. As fellow The Roar columnist Michael DiFabrizio outlined in his column earlier in the week, everyone’s a winner in the Scully situation.

Okay, it is a ridiculous situation seeing an unproven 20-year-old receive such a contract.

And, yeh, it’s not a good look for the AFL’s highest earners list to have a two-year player up top alongside two code-hoppers but that’s the temporary effect of expansion.

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Once Gold Coast and GWS’s youngsters begin to prove themselves they’ll earn better contracts and the new clubs’ vast salary cap space will gradually evaporate by the time Scully and co’s current deals expire.

For now, though, it is clearly an unusual situation but the AFL has decided this odd perception is a necessary trade-off for the good of its expansion effort and the success of the league’s two new franchises.

For the AFL’s sake, let’s hope those clubs get their recruitment right.