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Using the trade period to explain modern AFL (Part 2)

Roar Guru
25th October, 2015
3

The quest to find the explanation to modern AFL from this year’s player movement period continues with the final lessons that can be learnt from the second week of the trade window.

Lesson 20: It is a young man’s league
Lesson 21: And they want it all
Lesson 22: And they want it now

Jeremy Howe and draft picks to Collingwood; Jimmy Toumpas and draft picks to Port Adelaide; Ben Kennedy and draft picks to Melbourne; Nathan Freeman and draft picks to St Kilda; Paul Seedsman to Adelaide

That group of five players has an average age of under 23, includes a top-five pick, a top-10 pick and a top-20 pick. All five wanted to move clubs to seek further opportunities. This is Gen Y in AFL.

Lesson 23: Expansion has had far-reaching implications
Charlie Dixon and draft pick traded to Port Adelaide; draft picks go to Gold Coast; draft pick goes to Richmond

Obviously the expansion to 18 teams in the past five years was going to have an impact on the competition, but no-one predicted what that has been.

Rather than having an affect on lower clubs, it has instead been a crucial reason that the top teams have been able to sustain their positions for so long. With the talent pool stretched, those who built strong squads have been able to replenish and stay dominant.

Likewise, instead of a host of draft picks creating two dangerous young sides, both Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney have been forced to offload talent and reconstruct their squads already. That sure-fire quick success has not been and instead the ramifications have been felt where least expected.

Lesson 24: Due diligence checks could use some work
Jake Carlisle traded to St Kilda; Craig Bird traded to Essendon; draft picks to Sydney

Either St Kilda are the unluckiest team in the history of AFL trading or someone at Channel Nine is a big-time Essendon fan, releasing a jaw-dropping clip at the perfect moment.

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Either way, given this trade took over a week to land, surely St Kilda had some time to do a full background check into Carlisle.

Lesson 25: For academy clubs, it is all about the points
Gold Coast and Melbourne engage in a pick swap

Kudos to Melbourne who were at the forefront of realising that the four northern clubs saw draft picks in a whole different light to the rest of the league. The change in how academy players are to be drafted meant there was a window of opportunity, which Melbourne grasped.

In a clear top-two talent draft, it could be argued Melbourne made the ballsy move of taking the most decisive pick of the draft, with pick three.

Lesson 26: Premierships are not everything to every person
Matt Rosa traded to Gold Coast; second round draft pick goes to West Coast

The old saying ‘you play the game to win’ rings true for most football players and fans, but not every player has the same ambition and desires. It should be one of the real appeals of AFL that a group of nearly a 1000 young men who all have different personalities and perspectives are in the public spotlight.

Every player is wired different and for Rosa, it appears to be more about finishing his career as a starter rather than a depth option.

Lesson 27: Goal kicking has dropped
Troy Menzel traded to Adelaide; Sam Kerridge traded to Carlton

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Credit Carlton for helping highlight the ongoing scoring troubles of AFL footy. Scoring has drastically reduced to historically low numbers in recent seasons. It is hard to know whether Carlton are helping or hurting this scoring drought; they seemingly want to trade out anyone who can kick a goal, but on the bright side those goals have got to go somewhere.

Lesson 28: The footy industry is pretty small
Lachie Plowman, Jed Lamb, Andrew Phillips, Liam Sumner traded to Carlton; draft picks go to GWS

In past years four players being traded at all was a big deal. Now the position has come so far that four players can change from one club to another in one deft swoop.

That swoop happened to be engineered by Carlton list man Stephen Silvagni and came a few short years after GWS recruited this quartet of players under the watchful eye of then-GWS list man Stephen Silvagni. Small world footy is, hey.

Lesson 29: Player agents are the ‘blank’ of AFL
Adam Treloar traded to Collingwood; draft picks go to GWS

Feel free to fill in the ‘blank’ with anyone of the following words: greed-filled, lowlifes, scum, blight, manipulators, money hungry desperadoes. Any of those work.

As always the shadiness of this period is accentuated by the performance of player agents whose motives are solely individualistic. In a team sport, where almost everyone from coaches to players to admin staff to fans has to have an understanding of team, agents are the only ones who only care about the individual.

Lesson 30: Premiership wins start now
Jake Fitzpatrick traded to Hawthorn; draft picks go to Melbourne

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It should be the blandest trade of the entire period, yet because it was the only action for players performed by the three-time defending champs it feels like the most threatening. The history of Hawthorn building three premierships through this period of time is well documented. Four premierships like this trade seems so unlikely, yet…

Lesson 31: Teams are only a couple of good drafts away
Thomas Bugg and picks traded to Melbourne; picks traded to GWS

The best sides all have origins back to one or two draft periods where they were able to maximise their lot and get themselves on the path to success. Melbourne have battled for a long time to get those good couple of drafts. If the past two weeks are anything to go by, things may be turning. Proof that hope springs eternal in the AFL.

Lesson 32: The AFL administration is either very naïve or very cunning
Hawthorn and GWS perform a pick swap

The AFL claims that the new bidding system was not manipulated in the trade period and that it in fact enhanced the trade experience, with clubs so willingly making deals. Yet it was truly farcical to see the four academy clubs dealing wildly for mid-range picks. GWS were the chief manipulators of this, loading up with six picks between 53 and 65.

Credit the AFL for trying something with the new value system, but consider that GWS now hold picks 53, 55, 58, 63, 64, 65. Those six picks value in this new world is the same as a discounted top-20 pick. It is crazy to think a handful of nothing can be worth something.

Lesson 33: Midfielders are chased
James Aish and draft picks traded to Collingwood; Ryan Bastinac and draft picks trade to Brisbane; draft picks go to North Melbourne

Despite all the talk to the contrary and all the heat that umpires take for turning the Brownlow into a midfielders award, the reality is that this is a midfielders’ league.

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Every team is searching for that midfield depth that speaks of the best teams. You want some good ones, you want some great ones, you want some that win their own ball, you want some that run and carry on the outside. Either way, every club is trying to add midfield depth because this is a midfield league.

Lesson 34: Not all systems can be winners
Sydney and West Coast engaged in a pick swap

Five players expected to go in the top 20 of the draft are from various academies, but Sydney academy player Callum Mills is the most interesting prospect.

It is expected that a bid of pick three or four will be offered for Mills. If it is indeed Essendon with pick four who make the bid, Sydney will be forced to find around 1600 points to get their man. Sydney’s moves in the second round mean that picks 33, 36, 37 will be enough to secure Mills.

Lesson 35: Draft picks kinda move around
Western Bulldogs and Carlton engage in a pick swap

Every club traded at least one of their first two round-picks. Every pick bar two in the second round moved clubs and outside of three of the top four picks staying where they were, this was a trade period about throwing picks around.

Given the great ‘what if’ stories that are told, expect a lot of tales to be told. Imagine pick 28 ends up being the next Nat Fyfe…

Lesson 36: Someone always blinks in the AFL
Chris Yarran traded to Richmond; draft pick goes to Carlton

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Taking a backward step on the footy field is a no-no, but at the trade table sometimes these things have to happen.

And can someone point out that Chris Yarran and Alex Rance came from the same WAFL club, Swan Districts.

Lesson 37: Being a good trade partner has benefits
Collingwood and GWS perform a pick swap

Remember when Adelaide and Geelong traded picks in the last action of the 2014 trade period? Most people won’t. But that seemingly innocuous trade at the time proved to be a catalyst to the first trade of 2015, with the move of Patrick Dangerfield.

Clearly Geelong and Adelaide built respect over years and over trades, which is a reason their much-hyped trade worked so quickly. You never know when you might desperately need the help of another team, so these pick swaps can only be good for trade karma.

Lesson 38: The AFL nevers stops
Michael Talia traded to Sydney; draft pick goes to Sydney

Just as trades always come down to the final moments, the AFL has become an almost all-year sport with the month or two around Christmas the only real down time.

Credit to the AFL for creating a calendar that has kept it arguably the number one sport in its major markets for 10 months of the year.

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Lesson 39: And next is the craziest draft you will ever see
Gold Coast and Fremantle perform a pick swap

It’s been alluded to throughout this piece, but there has never been a draft anywhere in the world quite like the one the AFL is going to unleash in late November.

As much as concepts are stolen from other sports around the world, the unique Australian take is always added. This whole draft points value formula seems like the work of a mad scientist with a footy jumper under his trusty white lab coat.

Maybe that is the real lesson in the AFL – nothing ever stays the same, everything changes.