In 2019 the AFL saw an unpredecented phenomenon. After only a single coaching sacking in the previous two seasons, four coaches left their clubs mid-year, three replaced by caretakers who would eventually be promoted to the ongoing position.
St Kilda coach Scott Watters’ comments this week on the need to introduce a mid-season draft are not new but they should be looked at more closely by the AFL.
St Kilda go into this week’s fixture against the Swans with no fit full-time ruckman and this situation is one that we might see more of in weeks and years to come.
Sure, the Saints have Justin Koschitzke who is more than competent but usually as a backup ruckman who plays forward. His form in the forward line recently dictates that the Saints wouldn’t want him too far from goals for too long.
Whilst ruckman are often derided for their output, the importance and value of a good ruckman cannot be understated. Furthermore, a normally less dominant ruckman can become a vital player in a game when rucking against players who rarely play the position.
A mid-season draft would allow clubs who have long term injury lists sign players on temporary contracts for the remainder of the season to cover their losses. Eligibility for the draft would mean no current affiliation to a current club list.
The recent trend of mature aged recruits and the feel good stories that emanate from the success of these players could be enhanced further when the WAFL footballer who is having a blinding year all of a sudden finds himself lining up at the MCG the next weekend.
It is dangerous territory for the AFL to allow players to be wearing the jumpers of two different clubs in the one season and the rules would have to stipulate that there be no changing from one AFL list to another midyear.
Rules would also determine you can only draft a player if you have someone on the long term injury list. With more congested and high impact footy, there seem to be more long term injuries at each club thus creating a window of opportunity.
The AFL might argue that this is what the rookie list is for. The rookie list has been a great success but you cannot cater for all positions on the rookie list and mostly rookie listed players are younger speculative picks, not necessarily players that are in career best form at a lower level that year.
The order of the draft would be need to be determined. Ladder position is not necessarily a way to establish this. Your club can be injury ravaged when at the top of the ladder just as much as you can at the bottom.
The fairest way, is for clubs that want to take part in the draft would nominate at the start of the week. All nominations would go into a bucket and the order of the draw would be decided.
Fox Footy would love it as they could televise the draw to determine the order and indeed the draft itself. All of a sudden the Foxtel Cup takes on a bit more significance with players from these games getting more exposure as potential mid season draftees.
A mid-season draft is an obvious step just as Friday night football was, as expanding the competition was and as video technology was.
The opportunity for clubs and players alike is one that the custodians of the game should introduce as soon as possible and this change is one that fans of the game would welcome.