Moneyball or the Youth Policy?

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By AllSports, AllSports is a Roar Rookie

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    When the AFL decided to introduce an 18th club, based in Western Sydney, they needed a strategy to help get the club kick-started. There are two strategies they could have used – ‘Moneyball’ and the ‘youth policy’.

    To try and best explain the two different strategies, I will make up two geniuses who go by the names of John and Kevin to present to the idea to a mock AFL panel.

    The first genius fronts the panel.

    John’s strategy is called Moneyball. He intends to field a team largely made up of players aged 22 to 28, with the introduction of one 19 year old player for the first game.

    John’s aim is simple; he wants to play finals in his first year. The interview panel is impressed but have some concerns.

    “John, what are we to do with the raft of draft picks that will be thrown at or feet?”

    “We will keep our first three picks, while trading the remainder to clubs for established players in our target age group of 22 to 28,” John responds.

    The board nod and seem excited. “That sounds great but what about blindly following a youth program? Within five years we could potentially have a side of superstars, and the premierships will flow.”

    John shakes his head, “I want a champion team, not a team of champions. If you don’t start winning games straight away, you will develop a losing culture.

    “Look at Melbourne. You will have more first round draft picks than you will ever need to choose from and your club may not be around in five years.”

    The panel is impressed but need to hear from the second genius.

    Kevin’s strategy is called the youth program. He intends to load up on youth while the draft picks are available.

    In the first year he plans to win two games and lose 16 games by 40 points or more. The goal is to be a dominate force in about five years.

    The panel has some questions, “Are you not concerned the younger, less mature players may pay a physical and mental toll?”

    Kevin snaps back, “Don’t ever let any player or club dominate you at a ball, at a stoppage, in the air, or on the ground, THAT is simple basic bloody football!”

    There is silence, the panel looked surprised. “Kevin I’m not sure what you just said makes any sense?”

    Kevin is now playing with the zipper on his jacket staring out the window, “the kids need inspirational speeches and this team needs publicity. I am an expert in this area. We hire one local superstar and pay him $6 million over four years. That gives us a bunch of free publicity.”

    The board interrupts, “Well that’s not free is it?

    “And which NSW born player are you thinking of? Kieren Jack, Lenny Haze, Lewis Roberts Thompson, Tom Hawkins, Jarod McVeigh, Taylor Walker, who?”

    Kevin now seems to have water in his ear, “No Israel Folau.”

    The board replies, “Kevin last time we looked he played rugby league?”

    “Yes, but everyone in Greater Western Sydney will know who we are! Free publicity you see.”

    “Um, again Kevin, not free.”

    Two men in white jackets take Kevin away. The panel convene to make a decision. The amazing part of this story is they go with crazy Kevin’s idea.

    Now I’m not saying that’s how the Greater Western Sydney Giants formed their plan. What I am saying is that John Cahill, whether it was him or the board, had a game plan that offered a start-up team a chance to play finals in the first year.

    In 1997 Port Adelaide missed the finals on percentage; they defeated four of the top teams and only lost four games by more than 40 points. The setup of this type of strategy is loosely based on the same theory of Moneyball.

    In the AFL there is a salary cap. It’s not the money but the player analysis of matured players that we can compare. It’s about picking players with solid on-field statistics who can play a required role.

    Paul Roos has been quoted as saying, “Picks one, two and three are stars but the rest are up in the air”. Said logic would tell me that trading some of your later picks for mature age players would be the way to go, rather than following GWS’s current path which sees them now with 25 round one draft picks on their list.

    They are doing this through clever manipulation they are telling us. Really? To me, clever would be dropping $6 million at Lance Franklin’s feet. Clever was Collingwood trading pick 14 and 46 for Darren Jolly and the Suns giving two first round draft picks for Gary Ablett Jr.

    Taking young, early round draft picks will not guarantee you a great player. It is a gamble, because they are still developing mentally and physically. So why not look at mature, developed players with proven stats who can help play a role?

    John’s team in the first year had 10 wins. While the youth policy saw the Giants with two wins in its first season, 16 losses by 40 points or more and the lowest crowds since the dark days of the Sydney Swans and Brisbane Bears.

    This isn’t about whether or not Australian Rules is accepted in Western Sydney. Why wouldn’t it be?

    It’s one of the greatest sports on the planet to both play and watch. A ticket is great value and it’s a great day out for the family. You don’t have to get drunk with a bunch of mates to tolerate the game or pray that someone is going to score. If your team is winning people will come, it’s that simple.

    Trolls from other codes will make up a lot of reasons why GWS isn’t a good idea and will fail. But the formation of GWS is a must for the code. The AFL and its fans need it to work. But the current strategy just doesn’t look good.

    When the Sydney Swans were getting belted, nobody watched because they were terrible. GWS are terrible to watch.

    One strategy will give you a player to fill a role now, the other strategy might give you a great player in three or four years. The AFL need to turn this around.

    Because 2013 will see the Giants collect their second wooden spoon.

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    The Crowd Says (62)

    • January 18th 2013 @ 8:04am
      Ian Whitchurch said | January 18th 2013 @ 8:04am | ! Report

      This fantasy piece assumes two things – firstly, that good 22-28 year old players were willing to sign with GWS, and second, that the existing clubs were willing to trade them.

      In my universe, target after target of GWS in that age range signed extensions with their current club.

      This is a classic example. Note the dateline of the piece – August 2009.

      Here is another one

      Heres another one

      Yes, in this universe, some players were willing to sign with GWS – and the club had to heavily overpay for all of them. Davis isnt worth the money he’s on. Scully isnt. Palmer isnt. Ward is, but we got lucky.

      However, cap management is the key – all of these players have heavily frontloaded contracts, so the Giants have the cap room to re-sign their good young draft picks … like they have just done so.

      Similarly, Folau’s contract was overwhelmingly off-cap. And to be slightly cruel, “who?” describes Kieren Jack, Lenny Hays, Lewis Roberts Thompson, Tom Hawkins, Jarod McVeigh, and Taylor Walker pretty well (ok, Im being brutally unfair, but as a footy fan, they all make me go ‘meh, cant ever see building a premiership side around them’, in a way that was possible for a player with Folau’s physical gifts. Oh, and Project KPF Washes Out, news at 11 !).

      When it became clear that GWS was only going to get limited numbers of second- and third-tier players, then going all-out for youth made sense, because the more times you roll the dice, the more chances you have of finding very, very, very good players.

      ANd then you’ve got the cap room to ensure you keep them,.

      So, if you want to get into finals, once, your anti-Moneyball strategy of throwing money at exactly the same players all other clubs want makes sense. Your strategy of following the conventional wisdom and mortgaging the future by trading draft picks for players makes sense.

      But if you want to win a flag ? Not so much.

      Maybe another strategy would work. One about culture from day one. One about refusing to create a losing culture by repeated emphasis on “Don’t ever let any player or club dominate you at a ball, at a stoppage, in the air, or on the ground” (note, none of that is about whether it *works*. But lack of intent is lethal to your future at this club). One about making the players mates with each other, so the culture of loyalty that got players to re-sign for their existing clubs works for us rather than against us.

      And then ensuring all the good kids got contract extentions that would keep them at the club.

      • April 26th 2013 @ 7:57pm
        Adrian said | April 26th 2013 @ 7:57pm | ! Report

        Mature age state players playing state football with SANFL, WAFL or the VFL. I think that is where he was going with this.

    • January 18th 2013 @ 8:24am
      oikee said | January 18th 2013 @ 8:24am | ! Report

      GWS is not a team. They never will be a team. GWS is a area. Greater western Sydney.
      If rugby league plonked a team in the middle of Collingwood, you would get the same response.
      Nobody cares about the wandering giants, that is all they are, nobody likes them, they could win 10 flags and nobody would like them.
      Like you said, every reason know to man and yet the AFL thought stealing a talented league player and trying to saturate a league market with AFL properganda would win over fans.

      AFL will continue to pump tens of millions into the Giants, nobody will care, the NRL has a growing presense in the west. Parramatta and Penrith will get a up-graded 50 thousand stadium, the Wanderers will continue to grow.

      I can tell you the future, international sport is the future. Even if the AFL threw everything at the Giants to make them succeed, this will play right into other codes hands. While other afl areas are spluttering and being propped up for the good of expansion madness, not just rugby league, but all codes will attack the weaker areas in which AFL operate, and like cancer, eat away at grassroots and slowly erode the playing fields. It might take 20 years (like a well used afl term) but it will happen. grassroots of other codes is on the march as we speak.
      The NRL certainly has or will have a warchest to equal that march. They wont be aggressive about it either, that is one thing AFL has taught our game.

      AFL cant prop up 18 teams. In a world that is turning international, this will eventually become too much and the errosion of other codes will take it’s toll. We will see if i am right in 20 years time.
      Soccer internationals, Union internationals, even league internationals and world cup in 2017, rugby 7’s ,league 9’s.
      Tennis, Golf, Cricket, NFL and commonwealth games are all going to play a larger part in our landscape.
      That is purely my veiw, but i have already put my reputation on the line with aussie rules and said Suncorp will get at least ten 45 thousand crowds this year.

      I can be shot down if i am wrong. I do admit if i get it wrong, i have not been to wrong in most my predictions as yet. It is simple common sense.

      • Roar Guru

        January 18th 2013 @ 8:37am
        Redb said | January 18th 2013 @ 8:37am | ! Report

        The good news Oikee is your going to be hearing about GWS for a long time 🙂

        • January 18th 2013 @ 10:33am
          oikee said | January 18th 2013 @ 10:33am | ! Report

          I agree, greater western sydney teams as in the Panthers, the Eels and the wanderers.
          At the moment the only true wanderers are the Giants. They have no support, they have to take games to Canberra to get fans, and they dont have any support in the western suburbs.
          Nobody knows any of the players, and to be honest, nobody cares. They are blow-ins from some mystical draft system that in itself is illegal.
          Indigenous players and Island players dont like being seperated from their families, and some families contain 20 or 30 sets of families.
          AFL does not understand the islander culture, they barely have a clue about indigenous culture, and the NRL won a world award in this area. We are light-years ahead of a insular Melbourne that thinks the world revolves around them.

          Rugby league will continue to expand and grow our culture into AFL heartlands. We also are growing our international reach, we have a World cup, that is set in stone.

          The AFL has got to stop trying to take on the NRL. We have fought off a international sport, (rugby union) with passion alone, and with no cash. We are now 3 times stronger in cash flow.
          I will say it again, AFL needs to find someone else to pick on, league will eat you alive.
          Asl rugby union, they tried for 100 years to get rid of us, we have thrived. 🙂
          My prediction stands.

          • January 18th 2013 @ 10:39am
            Brewski said | January 18th 2013 @ 10:39am | ! Report

            Your sleeping on the couch …aren’t you oikee, how long since you have shaved and showered.

          • Roar Guru

            January 18th 2013 @ 10:43am
            Redb said | January 18th 2013 @ 10:43am | ! Report


          • January 18th 2013 @ 1:30pm
            Simmo said | January 18th 2013 @ 1:30pm | ! Report

            “They are blow-ins from some mystical draft system that in itself is illegal.”

            Not true. It’s only prima facie unlawful and should it be challenged in court the AFL will need to demonstrate that the draft is an acceptable restraint of trade. Which they will be able to do because the AFL is a more balanced league than the NRL (which it will be compared to in court).

            • Roar Guru

              January 18th 2013 @ 1:41pm
              Redb said | January 18th 2013 @ 1:41pm | ! Report


              There is no “Restraint of trade” according to court rulings where all Parties agree to the system, in this case the AFL and the AFLPA.

              • January 18th 2013 @ 2:01pm
                oikee said | January 18th 2013 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

                So what your saying is it only has to be challenged by 1 person and it can be over-ruled. ?
                Gee Whiz, hate to have all me eggs in that basket.

                Look, a plant could come in, i am not saying anyone will plant a player in your code, but a plant could come in, take the matter to the high-court and its all over rover. once they win the matter it becomes set in stone. rugby league learnt this many a moon ago.
                It is why we never went down that path.
                AFL is truely living on borrowed time by continue this stance.

                It will take one homesick indigenopus player, or one islander to rain, rain all over the aFL parade,
                Other codes will simply fuel the already known about fire.
                First rule of brownies, “be prepared”.

              • January 18th 2013 @ 5:41pm
                Simmo said | January 18th 2013 @ 5:41pm | ! Report

                I don’t often agree with Oikee but he’s basically correct.

                The arrangements are not a restraint of trade only to the extent that there is continuing agreement amongst the AFL, AFLPA, the clubs and every player. Any one of those parties could withdraw their consent and agree playing contracts that contradict the accord. If they did and the AFL or AFLPA sought to enforce the accord, then the accord would almost certainly be found to be a prima facie restraint of trade.

                The question for the court would be then is the restraint of trade justified in the interests of the sport. The court is very likely to find, Like Oikee points out that, the NRL gets by just fine without a draft and so can the AFL.

              • Roar Guru

                January 18th 2013 @ 7:02pm
                The_Wookie said | January 18th 2013 @ 7:02pm | ! Report

                Fundamentally incorrect. The Draft is NOT illegal. The Judges who took both the NSWRL(Aus) and NFL (USA) cases on the matter both ruled that the draft systems applied at the time were faulty and needed adjustment, but in both cases the judges did not say that the draft was illegal, merely its current implementation. The NSWRL abandoned it immediately while the NFL refined theirs and still use it.

                The schools of thought seem to be split on the matter of Restraint of trade as well.

                I did some work on the subject at that was also published on the Roar.

          • January 18th 2013 @ 7:59pm
            Floyd Calhoun said | January 18th 2013 @ 7:59pm | ! Report

            Sorry Oikee, but, ‘Rugby League will continue to expand and grow our culture into AFL heartlands’?!! Is this happening in Oikee World, or in the real world in which we live? That has to be your best yet!

            • January 18th 2013 @ 8:12pm
              Brewski said | January 18th 2013 @ 8:12pm | ! Report

              Hi Floyd, what about this Oikee gem …… ” in a world that is turning international”. 🙂

              • January 18th 2013 @ 9:22pm
                Floyd Calhoun said | January 18th 2013 @ 9:22pm | ! Report

                Yep, it’s difficult to even attempt to understand what’s going on there.

              • January 19th 2013 @ 9:36am
                oikee said | January 19th 2013 @ 9:36am | ! Report

                Like Ghostbusters, it just popped in there after reading a story in the Sydney papers about overseas movie stars and celebrities jetting into Sydney for a weekend out.
                The world is turning international. makes sense to me.

                Here is another one i thought about not long ago while nodding off.
                We are the aliens. ,,, A shipload of space travellers take off for a trip to pluto, the world has a war, everyone gone but a few small tribes who know nothing about the spaceship, they have to survive in outer space and learn to survivie on minimun food, so get all skinny looking like aliens, after a thousand years return with brilliant technology only to be looked at by our new tribes as aliens.

                They are of course just humans but with super light year technology.
                Good storyline. Hence we are the aliens, humans.

              • January 19th 2013 @ 8:10pm
                Floyd Calhoun said | January 19th 2013 @ 8:10pm | ! Report

                Of course, Pluto, aliens, Ghostbusters, jet setters arriving by jet in Sydney. Pretty bloody obvious when you look at it in those terms!

      • January 18th 2013 @ 8:55am
        Strummer Jones said | January 18th 2013 @ 8:55am | ! Report

        “I can tell you the future……”

        Good. What’s BHP’s share price going to be by year end. Not sure whether to go long or short the thing?

        “I can be shot down if i am wrong”.

        Noted (cc NRA)

        • January 18th 2013 @ 10:49am
          oikee said | January 18th 2013 @ 10:49am | ! Report

          Oh thats easy, with the easing of the GFC and the America fiscal market continuing to recover, i can see the South American market continue to gain ground and the big miners will make further ground in this area, South Africa will also attrack further investment and the Europeon markets will ease as well as the economy starts to gain traction with the renewed strengthening of the chinese as they now look to foriegn markets to spend their enormous wealth.
          My advice, Buy BHP, you cant lose. 🙂

          • January 18th 2013 @ 1:40pm
            Dingo said | January 18th 2013 @ 1:40pm | ! Report

            Thanks for the advice oikee, I just sold mine.

            • January 18th 2013 @ 2:10pm
              oikee said | January 18th 2013 @ 2:10pm | ! Report

              🙂 get you 20% ,,, buy internationals.Got half me savings rapt in them.
              Rio lost 13 billion, nice work lads.

      • January 18th 2013 @ 12:43pm
        Bayman said | January 18th 2013 @ 12:43pm | ! Report


        You may be right about the GWS are being dominated by RL fans but I reckon the AFL would be more concerned if the two main teams were other than the Eels and the Panthers, neither of which have done much dominating lately.

        Can anything be read into the fact that when Folau left the AFL he joined RU instead of League?

        • January 18th 2013 @ 1:34pm
          oikee said | January 18th 2013 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

          That is the scary part, these 2 teams have been fighting out the wooden spoon and look at the care factor for aFL.
          God help AFL when rugby leagues heartland teams fire.
          I am sure nobody begrudges AFL, but you have already got off on the wrong foot, with Sheedy putting the NRL down, and the AFL stripping rugby league of great players.

          The giants, i refuse to call a team in this area gws, where rugby league heartland is played, wont survive in west Sydney.
          As Parra and Penrith rise, (and they have no where to go but upwards) the Giants wont even be mentioned.
          They could win 10 titals, 10 flags, nobody would care.
          Redb called the West Balmain Tigers plastic, just today.
          Well the Giants are the most plastic team ever introduced into the Austrlian sporting landscape, and their fans are plastic as well.
          The Tigers fans are hardcore rusted on , and i am sorry redb you are no longer part of that, bad luck.
          The Storm fans are now the same, they lived and died their team.

          • January 18th 2013 @ 2:00pm
            Jaceman said | January 18th 2013 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

            The Storm was based on the remnants of 3 teams (perth, Adelaide, Hunter plus Lazarus) and was plonked in melbourne with no base – is that the same thing with apparently unlimited salary cap….???

            • January 18th 2013 @ 5:03pm
              Tiger said | January 18th 2013 @ 5:03pm | ! Report

              And Gws were plonked in the inner west of Sydney, nowhere near this so called ‘greater western Sydney’ place which is a made up afl name.

              It must be near Canberra somewhere!

              • Roar Guru

                January 20th 2013 @ 12:53am
                The_Wookie said | January 20th 2013 @ 12:53am | ! Report

                Greater Western Sydney was not an AFL made name. Its a designated geographic region of Sydney, Referred to as such by any number of private and public business and institutions.

      • January 18th 2013 @ 7:37pm
        Ian Whitchurch said | January 18th 2013 @ 7:37pm | ! Report

        “I can tell you the future, international sport is the future”

        The two weakest professional sports in Australia – cricket and rugby union – are the two most heavily reliant on internationals.

        This isnt a coincidence.

        Likewise “Olympic sports” are ignored, except for the four years when we focus on internationals.

        Nope, its the week in, week out club games that keep your bread buttered.

      • January 19th 2013 @ 9:51pm
        Brendon said | January 19th 2013 @ 9:51pm | ! Report

        I agree, in particular about the other codes eating into the AFL heartland, and with free agency and 3rd party deals making a mockery of the salary cap, smaller clubs like Port, North & Western Bulldogs will become feeder clubs to the richer clubs and the competition will lose supporters there as well. All is not well, the all mighty dollar in the AFL is eroding club culture and I’m not sure AFL can hold soccer back with no club culture and a feeder club system.

        • January 20th 2013 @ 12:47am
          Ian Whitchurch said | January 20th 2013 @ 12:47am | ! Report


          Thr AFL cracked down hard on 3rd party deals – basically, they now come under the cap … just check with any Adelaide supporter as to what happens if you try and use 3rd party deals to create cap room out of thin air.

          Similarly, free agents are paid with the same on-cap dollars.

          Both of these things wont affect Port, North and the Dogs.

    • January 18th 2013 @ 9:06am
      Brewski said | January 18th 2013 @ 9:06am | ! Report

      @ the wookie, you may or may not be interested in this …….Sydney Annual report

      Nothing about finance, but some useful stats.

      • Roar Guru

        January 18th 2013 @ 7:04pm
        The_Wookie said | January 18th 2013 @ 7:04pm | ! Report

        always interested, thanks mate.

    • January 18th 2013 @ 9:53am
      Simmo said | January 18th 2013 @ 9:53am | ! Report

      “It’s one of the greatest sports on the planet to both play and watch. A ticket is great value and it’s a great day out for the family. You don’t have to get drunk with a bunch of mates to tolerate the game or pray that someone is going to score. If your team is winning people will come, it’s that simple.”

      Every man thinks his wife is the most beautiful woman in the world.

      • January 18th 2013 @ 10:44am
        Brewski said | January 18th 2013 @ 10:44am | ! Report

        Pretty sure most blokes are not that deluded, but i guess the game that made Australia, is exactly the same as the beautiful game, the game they play in heaven and the greatest game in the world ( or whatever RL annoints itself as)

        And interestingly i read a snippett of info today regarding Australian football and the SCG ……. the first game of football at the SCG was a game of Australian Football between East Sydney (which is still going)and Sydney in 1881, what does that mean ?, …nothing really, but i found it interesting.

      • January 18th 2013 @ 5:21pm
        gus said | January 18th 2013 @ 5:21pm | ! Report

        Arsene Wenger quote simmo?!

        • January 21st 2013 @ 8:56am
          Simmo said | January 21st 2013 @ 8:56am | ! Report


    • January 18th 2013 @ 10:48am
      Tlux said | January 18th 2013 @ 10:48am | ! Report

      The AFL have gone about GWS and the Gold Coast the wrong way. Knowingly and willingly being uncompetitive for 4-5 years is ridiculous. The only thing that is going to happen is that they are going turn get rookie players into 75-100 gamers. Then the good ones will get traded to the likes of Collingwood, Hawthorn and Sydney and the average ones will stay put.

      No body wants to go and watch a losing team. The only reason why South Sydney have managed to keep going is because at one point in time, they were massively successful.

      The AFL’s plan should have been to buy mature players to take the team to finals in years 1 & 2, then have a rebuilding phase with young players over 3-4 seasons then be competitive.

      There is no mystery why the first hit from a drug dealer is free.

      • Roar Guru

        January 18th 2013 @ 12:32pm
        Redb said | January 18th 2013 @ 12:32pm | ! Report


        I dont think the AFL had much choice if they wanted to keep the existing clubs happy to spend $200M. You can’t force them to give up 2-3 good players each and then expect them to swallow the bill as well. !

        I agree its not desirable but longer term it wont be a problem.

      • January 18th 2013 @ 7:44pm
        Ian Whitchurch said | January 18th 2013 @ 7:44pm | ! Report

        Gold Coast knocked Richmond and Carlton out of finals contention this year.

        You might also look at the Brisbane Bears’ first year, and then what that turned into.

      • Roar Guru

        January 18th 2013 @ 9:34pm
        The_Wookie said | January 18th 2013 @ 9:34pm | ! Report

        Oddly enough I think that WAS the AFLs plan – hence the ability to take up to 8 uncontracted players – used previously by Port, Adelaide and other new clubs to take experienced players – but the new clubs though owned by the AFL recieve only broad direction from HQ, Recruitment and day to day management has rested with the clubs, which means recruitment has come under the same policies that affect every other club – the youth policy.

        For mine the AFl should have mandated taking established state level or former AFL players as 50% of the list, with the uncontracted players making another 8 and the rest being drafted as per usual.

    • January 18th 2013 @ 12:06pm
      Australian Rules said | January 18th 2013 @ 12:06pm | ! Report

      “A line to start a code war”..??

      Isn’t this an AFL tab?

      • Roar Guru

        January 18th 2013 @ 12:28pm
        Redb said | January 18th 2013 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

        Last time I checked AR.

        On topic, James Hird was pick 84. As Ian W says above you try as many good kids as you can and hope to find a gem.

        GWS have some great kids in that forward line with Patton and Cameron – scary in a few years.

        • Roar Guru

          January 18th 2013 @ 10:29pm
          The_Wookie said | January 18th 2013 @ 10:29pm | ! Report

          Chris Grant was taken at 105 by Footscray from Daylesford in 1988 lol. 105!
          Ashley Mcintosh was taken at 112 by West Coast from Claremont in 1989

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