The Roar
The Roar


AFL's rookie draftees not so raw

11th December, 2012

It’s time the AFL rookie draft had a name change.

The Macquarie Dictionary defines a rookie as a “raw recruit”, but of the national, pre-season and rookie drafts, it’s the last of those in which clubs have this year chosen by far the most recycled players.

With 45 rookies taken by 15 clubs on Tuesday, 13 of them have already spent time on AFL lists.

Initially the rookie system was designed as a method of giving players aged under 23 who missed out through the main drafts another way to work their way onto a club’s list.

Increasingly it’s being used as a cheap way of adding depth, with rookies’ salaries not as high as those for counterparts on clubs’ main lists.

The most striking example of a player for whom the term rookie is a misnomer is twice-retired Collingwood recruit Ben Hudson.

Hudson, also the Magpies’ ruck coach, has previously played 161 games with Adelaide, the Western Bulldogs and Brisbane and didn’t make his AFL debut until he was 25.

The 33-year-old ruckman becomes the Magpies’ oldest player, more than two years older than nearest teammate Ben Johnson.

Hudson’s recruitment adds ruck support for veteran Darren Jolly, which the Magpies shed by delisting Jonathon Ceglar and Cameron Wood from their primary list.


Ceglar was given a new start as a Hawthorn rookie.

Richmond, who had already picked up AFL-experienced players Troy Chaplin, Chris Knights and Aaron Edwards through the free agency and trade periods, added three more as rookies.

Orren Stephenson (delisted by Geelong), Ricky Petterd (Melbourne) and Sam Lonergan (Essendon) were all primary-list players this year before being delisted and snapped up by the Tigers to bolster their depth.

It’s another clear example of the rookie list being used more as back-up plan than development pathway.

Six other players were downgraded to rookie status at the clubs where they had spent this season on the primary list.

Other rookie draftees included Brett Goodes, the 28-year-old brother of Sydney superstar Adam, who while yet to play in the AFL will be among the Western Bulldogs’ six oldest players.

The AFL players’ association has called in the past for the rookie list to be scrapped and replaced by expanded primary lists so that some players aren’t paid less to do the same amount of work as their teammates.