How to reform the AFL trade system

mds1970 Roar Guru

By mds1970, mds1970 is a Roar Guru

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    Stalemates and brinkmanship run high as the AFL trading period meanders along. We’re nearly a week in and not a single trade is done.
    This happens every year, as clubs wait for their opponents to blink.

    We know who the clubs want, but the destination clubs don’t have the picks to make it happen.

    We see it, for example, at Essendon. The Bombers have three players their sights: Adam Saad, Devon Smith and Jake Stringer. The Suns, Giants and Bulldogs are all eyeing off Essendon’s pick 11, but the Bombers have only one first-round pick.

    How will the three Ss find their way to Windy Hill? We won’t find out until the final minutes of trading. In the meantime we wait.

    From Nathan Wilson to Charlie Cameron to Jack Watts and beyond, we see players wanting to get to clubs that don’t have the picks worthy of their abilities. Complicated multi-way trades will be done at the last moment. Someone will get screwed over. It happens every year.

    But there’s a solution, and it’s in that will enable trades to happen in a more timely and orderly way without the last-minute panic. It will add more intrigue as the draft order changes with every trade, and it uses a mechanism that already exists within the AFL system.

    Instead of trading picks, how about trading draft points?

    We all know how the points system came into being. The Swans struck gold with Isaac Heeney, only having to use pick 18 to match a bid for pick three. It was felt that clubs should have to match a bid with picks of a similar value, and so the points system was introduced for the purpose of academy and father-son bid-matching.

    The points system then became a penalty indicator when GWS Giants were stripped 1000 points for the Lachie Whitfield affair, but here’s how it can be taken to another level.

    (Image: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

    Instead of trading picks, teams would instead trade points. Of course there’ll be disagreements over what a player is worth, but once the value of a player is agreed, a trade can be done. Points would change hands with each trade, and when they do, their value will be added to or deducted from the club’s highest pick.

    For example, for the Bombers to land Jake Stringer they may have to trade pick 11 for pick 27. Insead they would trade 1329 points, which is the value of pick 11, for 703 points, the value of pick 27, leaving them down 626 points. In effect 626 points would be added to the Bulldogs’ highest pick and 626 points would be deducted from Essendon’s highest pick.

    The Bulldogs currently have pick nine (1469 points), so adding 626 points added to that brings it to 2095 points, upgrading the Bulldogs’ top pick to pick four. Essendon lose 626 points, which would downgrade their pick 11 to pick 27, exactly the same as they would have had.

    There would be plenty of skulduggery as everyone currently from picks four to eight would go down one pick and would look to trade to make that ground up. Every trade would affect not only the clubs involved but also potentially others as well. The possibilities are boundless.

    Players would be traded for points rather than for whatever draft pick the other club happens to hold – so even if the Bombers no longer had pick 11 because they had already done the Stringer trade, Devon Smith would still be worth 600 points, meaning the Giants could still turn pick 24 into pick 11. Of course every pick between 11 and 23 would then go down one place.

    Gold Coast would want enough points for Adam Saad to put them ahead of Brisbane and take pick one. GWS Giants would want to turn Devon Smith, Matt Kennedy and Nathan Wilson into enough points to restore a high first-round pick, which none of them individually could do.

    Swapping picks for points would make a much fairer system for free agency compensation. No longer would we have the farcical situation of James Frawley attracting better compensation than Buddy Franklin. A fixed formula based on dollars and years on the new contract would ensure a consistent compensation package.

    The points given to Brisbane for Tom Rockliff may be enough to give them a fighting chance of keeping the top spot even when the Suns get points from Geelong for Gary Ablett.

    (Image: AAP Image/Jason O’Brien)

    When it comes to trading future picks, it’s a lottery. You’re gambling on not just your own season but also on someone else’s. But under this system the points traded would remain the same whatever the ladder position would end up being. Evn if you’re trading future points, you know what you’re trading.

    It would certainly create a more transparent method of knowing how players are really valued. Of course the value of players is subjective, but the trades done will be indicative.

    Imagine the conspiracy theories if Essendon was to give GWS Giants more points for Devon Smith than they give the Bulldogs for Jake Stringer. There’d be no doubt who was valued higher.

    If no-one’s prepared to give up a first-round pick completely, would someone in Victoria give the Lions enough points to give Josh Schache a new home? As it currently stands, his only two choices are likely to be staying in Brisbane and honouring his contract or doing a Cam McCarthy and sulking out of the game for a year.

    Every cloud has a silver lining. A mass exodus, instead of seeing a string of second or third -round picks, can be turned into very high picks and a chance to land a gun replacement.

    You’d want to get trades done before trades between other clubs see you fall down the draft order, which would make a quicker and more efficient system than we currently have, in which nothing happens for days before a mad scramble at the end.

    The possibilities to revolutionise trade period are enormous. You won’t be disappointed.

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    The Crowd Says (21)

    • October 12th 2017 @ 8:15am
      Birdman said | October 12th 2017 @ 8:15am | ! Report

      get rid of restricted free agency, keep unrestricted free agency starting at 8 years from initial drafting and get rid of free agency compo picks

      • Roar Guru

        October 12th 2017 @ 9:04am
        mds1970 said | October 12th 2017 @ 9:04am | ! Report

        Interesting ideas there.
        No-one’s ever matched a restricted free agency offer, but at some point someone will – and then we’ll see how that really works. It could be a train-wreck.
        Some form of free agency compensation has merit, but the current system is very random and inconsistent. When James Frawley attracts pick 3 as compensation but Lance Franklin only gets 19, it’s a farce. And the compensation is decided on someone’s gut feeling judgement call rather than an objective criteria. My system I think is fairer, the compensation formula is already known and the points allocated are consistent with that.

        • Roar Guru

          October 12th 2017 @ 9:30am
          Cat said | October 12th 2017 @ 9:30am | ! Report

          Why should 17 clubs have their picks devalued by 1 for each FA that another club decides to let go?

          • October 12th 2017 @ 9:44am
            Birdman said | October 12th 2017 @ 9:44am | ! Report

            Cat, I agree with the devaluation of picks issue but I hardly think clubs always decide to let go of FAs.

            The Hawks had no choice in not matching Franklin’s offer which was largely funded by COLA.

            • Roar Guru

              October 12th 2017 @ 9:57am
              Cat said | October 12th 2017 @ 9:57am | ! Report

              I understand that BM, same thing happened to Geelong with Ablett to the Suns, no chance to match that extra cap room. I’ve said previously that a compromise would be that compo picks are only given to clubs that make qualifying offers to their FA. I hate seeing clubs get ‘rewarded’ for doing nothing. Plenty of examples of clubs being happier to get a compo pick then re-sign their player.

            • Roar Guru

              October 12th 2017 @ 11:51am
              Paul D said | October 12th 2017 @ 11:51am | ! Report

              Hawthorn are far from the first or last club to have someone enticed out by a fat salary.

              • Roar Guru

                October 12th 2017 @ 1:08pm
                mds1970 said | October 12th 2017 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

                Absolutely, and Hawthorn have done their fair share of enticing as well. They used free agency to get Frawley on a big money contract for nothing.

          • Roar Guru

            October 12th 2017 @ 9:49am
            mds1970 said | October 12th 2017 @ 9:49am | ! Report

            That’s what happens now. When Melbourne got pick 3 for Frawley, everyone after that went down a spot.
            What giving points for compensation would do, is instead of creating a new pick it would add points to an existing pick. Maybe enough to turn pick 2 to pick 1. But no-one pick 3 or below would be affected.

    • Roar Pro

      October 12th 2017 @ 8:31am
      Darren M said | October 12th 2017 @ 8:31am | ! Report

      Would we then go further and remove the draft ‘order’ and make it an auction?

      Allocate points to each club based on the ladder , like now, but instead of each of those picks being at a set time, the points are just allocated. Each player can then be bid on in turn, with the player going to the club prepared to part with the most points with a requirement that at least 3 players are selected or whatever the rule is.

      It would make for some tactical planning for teams when your #1 choice is not bid on until late in the system, or if you spend all your points on a gun early on.

      • Roar Guru

        October 12th 2017 @ 9:21am
        mds1970 said | October 12th 2017 @ 9:21am | ! Report

        Interesting idea there. Would certainly make draft night work very differently.

    • October 12th 2017 @ 9:00am
      Macca said | October 12th 2017 @ 9:00am | ! Report

      I am sorry but this is just a terrible idea.

      Lets just say that The Lions trade Schache, the Suns Ablett, the Blues trade GIbbs, North trades Cunnington and Freo trades Neale (all trades that have been rumoured this year) – it would be highly likely that the points gained for all of them cancel each other out so all 5 clubs have lost a player worth a first round pick for absolutely nothing.

      Further lets say the Lions couldn’t get a trade done for Schache – they then probably go from having pick 1 to having pick 5 simply because they didn’t trade – how is that fair?

      Further again let’s say the Lions trade Schache and none of the other trades get done the lions go from having pick 1 to having pick 1 – so they get nothing.

      • Roar Guru

        October 12th 2017 @ 9:28am
        mds1970 said | October 12th 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

        If that was to happen, there’d be a big gap in points between the top 5 and the rest. But there’d be no shortage of clubs willing to trade with those top 5 clubs to get those surplus points.
        And if, using your last example, Brisbane were to find themselves 500 or more points clear on top pick, there’s plenty of clubs who would be willing to trade to get hold of 499 of those points to upgrade their pick. Could be trading players to the Lions, or even trade current year points for future points.

        • Roar Pro

          October 12th 2017 @ 1:16pm
          Darren M said | October 12th 2017 @ 1:16pm | ! Report

          Maybe the extra points cannot be added to 1st round picks, but the order after that becomes fluid?

    • October 12th 2017 @ 10:34am
      Aransan said | October 12th 2017 @ 10:34am | ! Report

      There will be many arguments about the relevance of the points system. My impression is that clubs value higher picks more than the points indicate, particularly in what is believed to be a weak draft year. One comment is that we have three standout potential draftees this year and then the quality drops away. The advantage of high draft picks is that not only are you more likely to get a quality player but you will also get an earlier return. If key position back players are more likely to be found with later picks the problem is that they take longer to develop and clubs are too impatient to do this and will instead attempt to poach such players from other clubs after they have been developed.

      It is interesting to see the various scenarios coming up with Essendon’s pick 11, getting a player and a second round pick in return. I haven’t seen a proposal yet that makes sense in terms of the point system — pick 11 is regarded as being far more important than second round picks.

      • Roar Guru

        October 12th 2017 @ 1:39pm
        mds1970 said | October 12th 2017 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

        Gold Coast, the Bulldogs and GWS all wanted pick 11 as part of any trade with Essendon; because they wanted the first round pick while later rounds were more valuable to be traded out than in.
        Since Aransan’s post this morning, GWS have won the race for pick 11. Will be interesting to see how Stringer and Saad get done.

        • October 12th 2017 @ 8:46pm
          Aransan said | October 12th 2017 @ 8:46pm | ! Report

          The following is an exercise in showing how the index values don’t make much sense in Essendon’s trade for Smith.
          Essendon receive Smith, pick 24 (785 points) and the Giants 2018 second round draft pick (say pick 33 based on 2017 order, or 563 points).
          Giants receive pick 11 (1329) and Essendons 2018 third round draft pick (say pick 47 based on 2017 order, or 316 points).
          Smith is therefore valued at 1329 + 316 – 785 – 563 = 297 points, or approximately pick 48 (302 points).
          This is obviously ridiculous, the flaw in the argument is that pick 11 was valued more highly than 1329 points, especially to GWS as otherwise they wouldn’t have had a first round draft pick. Even so Essendon appear to have done well out of this.

          Essendon have two second round draft picks this year (24 and 29) and two second round draft picks next year, one thought is that Gold Coast will accept Essendon’s second round draft pick for 2018 for Saad, the Bulldogs will have to work out what they will accept for Stringer.

    • Roar Guru

      October 12th 2017 @ 11:54am
      Paul D said | October 12th 2017 @ 11:54am | ! Report

      I think while this system would work well for picks 2nd round and onwards, as others have said it falls down badly when you start getting into the high end trades. Clubs would wind up losing blue chip talent to go up maybe 1-2 places in the draft, and already we’re seeing with the Lever trade that clubs don’t rate the potential of draft picks anywhere near as much as they used to

      Clubs would much rather signed a guaranteed talent who’s spent a few years in the game and they know for sure has what it takes, as opposed to taking a punt on a talented 17 year old who may not cut it

      • Roar Pro

        October 12th 2017 @ 1:18pm
        Darren M said | October 12th 2017 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

        I guess though, someone has to do the drafting at some point.

        • Roar Guru

          October 12th 2017 @ 1:24pm
          Paul D said | October 12th 2017 @ 1:24pm | ! Report

          Yep – the QLD, NSW, WA and SA clubs mainly. And St Kilda and North.

        • Roar Guru

          October 12th 2017 @ 1:35pm
          mds1970 said | October 12th 2017 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

          That someone is GWS. Not because they’re gifted everything but because they blood the talent the other clubs want and will trade for.

      • Roar Guru

        October 12th 2017 @ 1:27pm
        mds1970 said | October 12th 2017 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

        Each club has to decide what’s right for them, and then go for it. They’ll have to decide whether it’s worth dropping a couple of spots to pick up a blue chip talent, but they do that already.
        But at the moment, if they spot a player who’s worth, for example, a late first-round pick; they have to have a late first-round pick to get them. This system could effectively allow clubs to trade a pick they don’t have.
        When I wrote the article last night, Essendon had pick 11 but three clubs were eyeing off that pick. GWS won that race and now have that pick. It’s going to be a challenge for Essendon to come up with suitable trades for Stringer & Saad.

        But you’re right, there are many clubs who are seeing more value in going after players who have had a few years in the AFL system and have been blooded at the top level, as opposed to going after untried kids. They’d rather trade to get those players. And that’s how GWS keep getting first-round picks, even though their start-up concessions have long gone.

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