The disadvantage Queensland clubs face in the AFL

Finn Devlin Roar Pro

By Finn Devlin, Finn Devlin is a Roar Pro

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81 Have your say

    In an extraordinary trade period move, Lachie Weller is now a Gold Coast Sun. A last-minute move, driven by the player and completed by the fledgeling Queensland side, saw the Suns part with the prized second pick in the 2017 national draft.

    The move raised many eyebrows among those in the football industry. In the view of most, Weller, a 21-year-old with less than 50 games experience, was not worth the chance at picking up the second-best young player in the country in the draft.

    From a list management perspective, Weller’s potential was less – and in the eyes of many, far less – than what could be extracted from pick 2.

    The Suns, led by CEO Mark Evans, saw the situation differently. Their desire to land a player of note in the trade period to replace the departing Gary Ablett meant their hand was forced, particularly when Weller so publicly requested a trade home.

    That Weller has roots and family connections on the Gold Coast made the trade even more enticing for the Suns, who couldn’t pass up the chance to land a player with the potential to be the cream of their midfield for the next decade. More importantly, the club couldn’t pass up the chance to land a player who wanted to be there.

    It is this last reason that is so concerning for Queensland clubs. In the age of free agency and player power, players are increasingly finding homesickness an unacceptable challenge of being an AFL footballer. This is understandable given the ever-increasing standards set for being a professional high-performing athlete and the spotlight that comes with being a footballer.

    This landscape is meaning clubs are turning their focus to players from their home state to fill sizeable portions of their list. For example, West Coast is expected to use a large number of its glut of middle and late draft picks on mostly West Australians in the upcoming draft in order to ensure they have a core of homegrown talent to launch their rebuild from.

    In other words, a core a players that are absolute certainties to stay at the club.

    (AAP Image/Tony McDonough)

    However, this is not a luxury that the Queensland clubs enjoy. The dearth of footballers that hail from the AFL’s most northern state means that it is difficult for Queensland clubs to build lists that are comparable to clubs that are from more AFL-orientated states.

    The reason is simple. Statistically in a smaller sample size there will not be as many comparably talented players as there would be in a larger sample size, such as in Victoria or South Australia. Therefore it becomes harder for the Suns and the Brisbane Lions to build lists capable of challenging for premierships.

    In this new age of free agency players can nominate their preferred club even if they are not eligible for actual free agency. A major flaw in the club-versus-player power struggle is that these clubs are virtually forced to deal with this club.

    Because the majority of players are from Victoria and despite the large number of clubs and potential trades for the Lions or Suns to gain, if they don’t deal with the player’s club of choice, they face losing him for nothing in the preseason draft. The player will simply refuse to sign for another club who picks him.

    The best example of this are the ‘go-home five’ for the Brisbane Lions, who departed in the summer of 2013. After losing five of their brightest talents, four of who were in the Brisbane best 22 the year before, the Lions have had to go through yet another rebuild to get the club back on track. Although the squad is brimming with talent, they finished last in 2017.

    (Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    And yet the players the club gave away have been successful at other clubs. Elliot Yeo just won the West Coast best and fairest award, while Sam Docherty was an All Australian this year. Billy Longer is the first-choice ruckman at St Kilda, and Jarad Polec is established in the Port Adelaide side.

    The Lions received no first-round picks for these players despite the fact two, arguably three, would command a top five pick now. Add those four to the Lions side and they are, in the estimation of this column, a three to four-win better side than their 5-17 record in 2017.

    This trade period the Suns gave away Gary Ablett, a two-time Brownlow medalist and their best and fairest winner last year, for an end-of-first-round selection – though admittedly there were other factors involved in this – while Brisbane received a mid-range second round and an early third-round for their number two pick, Josh Schache.

    The clubs are bleeding talent and getting peanuts in return.

    The effect is twofold. As more players than average depart the Queensland clubs to ‘go home’, fewer players want to move back home north due to the comparatively low number of Queensland footballers in the AFL system. This forces the two Queensland clubs to overpay for players that want to come home.

    The Suns gave up more than what Lachie Weller is worth in the eyes of the industry simply because he wanted to come home. Likewise the Lions for Charlie Cameron.

    This means that over time these two clubs will expend more to build a list and receive less for departing players. Although both clubs may get it right with their respective additions this season, statistically, over a long period of time, these clubs will be at a disadvantage compared to others. This can be seen in their success record – the Lions haven’t made the finals in eight seasons, Gold Coast have never made them.

    It is clear the current free agency system puts Queensland clubs at a distinct and unfair disadvantage. If the AFL are serious about making a good go of footy in Queensland, something needs to change.

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    The Crowd Says (81)

    • November 12th 2017 @ 3:58am
      dave said | November 12th 2017 @ 3:58am | ! Report

      The afl wants 18 teams but doesn’t want all teams to be successful .They want a team like Gold Coast or Bulldogs to win one flag and then go back to not being a flag threat but not needing afl financial assistance.
      They absolutely love Freo because Freo has a healthy membership and can continue to be one of the teams that makes up the numbers.
      I think the afl was hoping Brisbane after having so much glory could have become another Freo or any of the other teams that the afl decides are the teams that are there to make up the numbers.
      Brisbane are on the right track It is a shame they didn’t get 4 Friday night games this year.

      • November 12th 2017 @ 3:58pm
        mickyo said | November 12th 2017 @ 3:58pm | ! Report

        Have you really bothered to actually think about your first sentence ….. “The afl wants 18 teams but doesn’t want all teams to be successful”.


        Are you suggesting the AFL wants to fork out money for unsuccessful clus year upon year ?.

        Even if the AFL favours clubs and IMO the tribunal favoured Richmond before the GF they don’t want unsuccessful clubs.

        • November 13th 2017 @ 9:37am
          Hungry Jack said | November 13th 2017 @ 9:37am | ! Report

          Have you really bothered to actually think about your entire response, Mickyboy? Sour grapes and garbage! Your suspicions are merely paranoia and ‘woe is me’ rhetoric!

    • November 12th 2017 @ 4:19am
      Mattyb said | November 12th 2017 @ 4:19am | ! Report

      The biggest hurdle for the Queensland clubs is trying to promote themselves in what is still a VFL competition both on and off the field. The sooner the game goes national the better,there’s more talk about these things but we’re still a long way off,Queensland will be the biggest benefactor when we decide to make the game a national competition.

      • November 12th 2017 @ 2:08pm
        Stephen said | November 12th 2017 @ 2:08pm | ! Report

        Mattyb, what do you suggest needs to happen in order to make the game a national competition – to use your words?

        • November 12th 2017 @ 3:22pm
          Mattyb said | November 12th 2017 @ 3:22pm | ! Report

          Stephen,I think a fair bit needs to still be done,in order of priority and what’s easily achievable I’d say…
          Fix the biased VFL fixturing.
          Distinguishing AFL premierships from VFL,it makes no sense to claim Melboune or Carlton or even Richmond are successful AFL clubs.
          Rename the VFL awards to give them a national feel. Brownlow,Norm Smith,Coleman,McLelland,Jock McHale,there all old Victorians,we need to acknowledge the rich history of Australian football and include more of Australia to give people a better sense of inclusiveness.
          A national GF is a must,especially in attempting to sell and grow the game in the northern states.
          Cutting back the VFL clubs to 4-6,10 is far to many. Personally I’ve proposed re aligning all clubs geographically while keeping Collingwood and Geelong,which would bring it back to six clubs. The other solution would be a sink or swim scenario.

          • November 12th 2017 @ 4:26pm
            Stephen said | November 12th 2017 @ 4:26pm | ! Report

            Thanks Mattyb. Wow, there are some big suggestions in amongst that lot. Totally agree re fixturing – almost zero Friday night games for non-Victorian clubs. I’m not sure trying to water-down the VFL history is appropriate. What we should be looking at – is bringing some of the SA, WA, Tasmanian, Qld history more into the national frame. It wouldn’t hurt to have two Premiership lists – with one list from 1896 to 2017 and the other from 1990 (AFL commencement) to 2017.

            The Grand Final is contracted to be played at the MCG until 2035. As for reducing the number of Victorian clubs – I think that should be left to the individual clubs, if their owners (members) vote to do so.

            Although there is a long way still to go – would you agree, the AFL is more committed to a genuine national competition – than the rival NRL competition?

            • November 12th 2017 @ 5:31pm
              Mattyb said | November 12th 2017 @ 5:31pm | ! Report

              Stephen,the AFL is far more committed to expansion than the NRL for sure. Both seem a long way behind soccer though in this regard.
              I think the biggest mistake the AFL made,and where the ALeague and even the Big Bash have an advantage is they were able to start from scratch,where the AFL just expanded the bankrupt VFL.

              • November 12th 2017 @ 8:54pm
                Martin said | November 12th 2017 @ 8:54pm | ! Report

                Mattyb, I agree with you that there are too many teams in Victoria, but whilst AFL House is located in Melbourne there is little chance of anything changing. Ideally it would be good to move AFL House to Sydney or Brisbane where the administrators can get a reality check.

                The lopsided clubs structure is just being duplicated by the AFLW because the stupid AFL want to make it ten Victorian clubs again. The Victorian clubs dominate the decision making obviously because they have ten clubs. Both the WAFL and the SANFL sacrificed a hell of a lot; whereas, the VFL merely sacrificed moving the Fitzroy Football Club to Sydney.

              • Roar Guru

                November 12th 2017 @ 9:19pm
                Cat said | November 12th 2017 @ 9:19pm | ! Report

                Moving AFL house changes nothing. The AFL can’t force clubs to move. Can’t force mergers. Can’t yank a license ‘just cause’.

              • November 12th 2017 @ 10:08pm
                Stephen said | November 12th 2017 @ 10:08pm | ! Report

                Yes. Starting with a clean slate can be simpler in many respects. I think we should however keep in mind – the traditions of our game are precious and culturally important. Whenever a Director from an opposition code is asked the question – what underpins the AFL’s success – we hear the same answer – that is the AFL ‘s preparedness to hold onto the traditions within the game. And to your point – perhaps we need to start to exalt some non-Victorian traditions. And build those into today’s AFL fabric.

              • November 13th 2017 @ 12:06am
                Mattyb said | November 13th 2017 @ 12:06am | ! Report

                Gene,your jumping the gun and being brash. The AFL wouldn’t need to force out the old VFL clubs,each season only a few would survive without AFL help. Collingwood,Essendon and Richmond are the only sustainable long term Melbourne clubs and Geelong probably have a place as a rural side.
                Even with the massive fixturing advantages multiple Victorian clubs lose money,simply because there is far to many VFL clubs.

                Stephen,what you have said is exactly right in that we need to start building some AFL traditions. Yes VFL tradition is important but no more so than WAFL or SANFL traditions. We need a seperation of those that love the game from those interested solely on their own club or state.

              • November 13th 2017 @ 4:31pm
                DeanM said | November 13th 2017 @ 4:31pm | ! Report

                Hawthorn are wealthier than both Richmond and Essendon and have significant off field investments and assets that generate as much revenue as any club probably more than Collingwood. No chance they go and I am glad your plan to kill off 6 teams would never go ahead. That would destroy the AFL and the revenue required to assist the poorer clubs.
                QLD teams should have training facilities comparative to the leagues average fully funded by the AFL and an increased salary cap for an initial 5 years and further AFL investment into the administration of both clubs. Paying off all debt held by both clubs would help also.

              • November 13th 2017 @ 9:44am
                Macca said | November 13th 2017 @ 9:44am | ! Report

                Mattyb – “Collingwood,Essendon and Richmond are the only sustainable long term Melbourne clubs and Geelong probably have a place as a rural side.” For this to be true every interstate club would also have to be unsustainable.

                If you look at population Melbourne’s current population is 4.5m, Geelong has 190,000 and the rest of Victoria has is roughly 1.4m. Victoria’s population is growing at 2.5% or 150,000 per year.

                Victoria is the fastest growing state in the country with NSW being second at just 1.5%.

                Western Australia’s population is 2.6m and growing at 1.2% or just 31k a year

                South Australia’s population is 1.7m and growing at just 0.6% or 10k a year.

                At those rate Victoria will grow by the entire population of South Australia in roughly a decade.

                Queensland and NSW already have 1 more side than the people living there want.

                Also you are wrong to focus on profit – football clubs don’t have shareholders and all profits are simply poured back into the club – the more money a team makes the more ways they find to spend it in upgraded facilities or increased football department spending.

                Also you also need to understand profit more – you keep banging on about Carlton not recording a profit but the did actually make a cash profit last year – they only made a loss after the depreciation of Princes Park was taken into account which doesn’t impact their cash position.

              • November 13th 2017 @ 1:14pm
                Mattyb said | November 13th 2017 @ 1:14pm | ! Report

                Can’t recall anyone mentioning profit,and your long winded response has totally ignored how much money the AFL has to give VFL clubs to keep them afloat. Every time one VFL club seems to stand on its own two feet it is just replaced by another holding out its hand for funding simply because there are to many clubs concentrated in one area.

              • November 13th 2017 @ 2:06pm
                Macca said | November 13th 2017 @ 2:06pm | ! Report

                Mattyb – “Can’t recall anyone mentioning profit” Really you never said this? “Even with the massive fixturing advantages multiple Victorian clubs lose money”

                “how much money the AFL has to give VFL clubs to keep them afloat.” Ignoring the fact that the AFL is just the collection of clubs and any money made by the AFL belongs to the clubs is it your argument that only VFL clubs receive money from the AFL?

                Here is the 2016 list of AFL payments;
                2016 PAYMENTS TO CLUBS

                1. GWS Giants $21,548,374

                2. St Kilda $18,566,589

                3. Western Bulldogs $17,610,181

                4. Brisbane Lions $17,532,922

                5. Gold Coast Suns $17,194,594

                6. North Melbourne $15,022,303

                7. Melbourne $14,799,452

                8. Port Adelaide $13,206,665

                9. Sydney Swans $12,488,957

                10. Richmond $12,358,925

                11. Essendon $11,914,715

                12. West Coast Eagles $11,703,240

                13. Hawthorn $11,614,683

                14. Carlton $11,607,942

                15. Collingwood $11,304,689

                16. Geelong Cats $10,787,483

                17. Fremantle Dockers $10,563,307

                18. Adelaide Crows $10,553,565

                You will note that there is 3 non VFL clubs in the top 5 and 5 non Victorian clubs in the top 9.

                It is also interesting to see that 4 of the bottom 6 (including Carlton in 14th) are old VFL clubs.

                Time to admit you have lost.

              • November 13th 2017 @ 2:13pm
                Stephen said | November 13th 2017 @ 2:13pm | ! Report

                Mattyb, as for separation between those who love the game – as opposed to those who care only for their club or State. Arguably, this is the role of the AFL – in a perfect world. Unfortunately, not always the case.

              • November 13th 2017 @ 2:28pm
                Macca said | November 13th 2017 @ 2:28pm | ! Report

                Mattyb – Given the Bulldogs received $6m more than the blues in 2016 and given how critical you are of Carlton recording losses what are you thought on the fact that in 2016 the bulldogs recorded an “operating profit” of $3.6m which is just $4.3m more than the blues “operating profit less depreciation” -$765k?

              • November 13th 2017 @ 5:38pm
                Tricky said | November 13th 2017 @ 5:38pm | ! Report

                I know we’re getting off the beaten track here, but I tend to agree with you Matty B that the National comp should’ve started from scratch.

                However if that did come to pass back in the late 80’s even with the financial mess that the VFL was you could bet your bottom dollar the vast majority of fans would’ve stuck with their team. Being a Collingwood supporter I know I would followed the Pies first and foremost, I know you’re going throw the VFL would’ve died line. Again I’d bet my house on it surviving somehow even back then as there was a huge market and today the overwhelming majority for footy fans are from Victoria (and players).

                I get your notion of making the comp truly national in favour of equity and inclusion of all footy states. If it were economically viable it would be fait accompli and let’s be honest HQ would prefer it that way after all they want to grow the game. The cold hard fact is that the overwhelming paying public is from Victoria and for that reason a truly equitable national comp is just not possible – let it go mate

          • November 14th 2017 @ 9:57am
            pussyblue said | November 14th 2017 @ 9:57am | ! Report

            Cant see many of those suggestions are going to fly and I’m not sure where the fixture bias is other than possibly the Friday night fixture. Any perceived bias there, could be removed by spreading these games evenly between the previous seasons top eight. I Agree that premierships should only count since the AFLs inception. This would be a good reset.
            Changing medal names is never going to satisfy anyone. I’m sure if the AFL had its way the Brownlow would become the Ford/Toyota/Mcdonalds/Hungry Jack Medal.
            Not sure how you are going to get rid of 4 clubs. The bottom 4 clubs have over 170,000 card carry members, let alone the huge supporter base that are not actual members.That is also a huge TV audience that the AFL would put offside.
            Forgetting the Contract with the MCG for the GF, firstly there are not enough big grounds interstate. If there were I could see a day where if 2 different interstate teams played in a GF they played on a neutral ground. For instance Crows V Richmond would be played in Sydney Brisbane or Perth, providing they can sell out the ground, after all money talks when it comes to the AFL.
            As for growing the game in the Northern state this is going to take a long time and may not even happen with the popularity and history of NRL in these states. Also in trying to grow supporter bases interstate especially in non AFL states the AFL does not want to alienate the supporters in the south. A fact of football is that other than NSW the other states capital cities combined do not have the population of Melbourne.
            The AFL has to be careful in expanding the game not to kill the goose that lays the golden egg, as the Victorian audience is a big source of revenue.
            IMHO the mere fact of Victorias’ population combined with its’ huge support base for the AFL, together with the fact it is the largest supplier of players, means it will have a large influence over the game now and at least in the near future.
            Fair? Maybe not. If AFL was based on fairness Tasmania would’ve had a team in the AFL before the northern states but that’s the reality of modern day professional sport.

      • November 12th 2017 @ 3:41pm
        DeanM said | November 12th 2017 @ 3:41pm | ! Report

        I agree they should let team’s from outside Victoria join the competition to make it national. Good idea Mattyb.

        • November 12th 2017 @ 4:03pm
          Mattyb said | November 12th 2017 @ 4:03pm | ! Report

          Dean,do you feel it’s a national competition or just an expanded VFL competition?
          I know many people complain the league is spending money on the Northern States but every year the AFL is also pumping money into multiple VFL clubs despite hundreds of years of existance,and as soon as one stops losing money another just starts bleeding the comp dry,and this is despite all the prime time games and fixturing advantages.
          No point just adding clubs from around the country if your not going to include them properly.

          • November 13th 2017 @ 5:24pm
            Stephen said | November 13th 2017 @ 5:24pm | ! Report

            Dean/Matty, you make very valid points. I just don’t think the game can support more than 18 clubs in the medium term. It’s time for consolidation. And there is no better place to start than increased support for the two Queensland clubs in my view.

            Dean, you made a good point earlier about the Brisbane Lions training facility. Its a little infuriating that the Chairman Bob Sharpless has only now decided to step down – citing a conflict of interest with the developer and the clubs planned training facility. Staggering. Sharpless denied any conflict of interest four years ago. And its no great secret – the $15m pledged by the Qld Government – has been on-hold until this bloke steps down. Well while he’s been feeding his ego – the club has lost four years in the development of their new facility. Should never have been appointed!!

            Sharpless will finally go, the government will pay the pledged $15m and the Lions will finally have their state-of-the-art training facility – albeit 4+ years overdue. And Sharpless will go from feeding his ego to feeding his wallet as deputy chairman of Springfield Land Corporation. Hopefully, we won’t have to see the likes of this bloke in AFL circles ever again.

    • November 12th 2017 @ 6:33am
      Not so super said | November 12th 2017 @ 6:33am | ! Report

      becsude people from Qld don’t care

      • November 12th 2017 @ 8:23am
        David C said | November 12th 2017 @ 8:23am | ! Report

        I care. I’d say you don’t and your probably not from Qld.

    • November 12th 2017 @ 6:34am
      Not so super said | November 12th 2017 @ 6:34am | ! Report


    • November 12th 2017 @ 8:50am
      Rob said | November 12th 2017 @ 8:50am | ! Report

      Had my first trip to QLD in July. Forgot there was even footy on… theres so much to do in the beautiful weather than watch your teams get pumped!

      AFL needs to help if either club is going to be at least successful enough to drag people away from all the other activities on offer in S.E QLD – we all know people go to see the lions when they are winning and G.C were getting healthyish crowds thru the gates before Gaz did his shoulder.

      Not sure how to do this… but would help if kids wernt such sooks these days too – if you dont want to potentially be living thousands of kilometers from home dont nominate for the draft.

    • Roar Guru

      November 12th 2017 @ 8:59am
      Cat said | November 12th 2017 @ 8:59am | ! Report

      Lack of success is the biggest issue for Queensland teams. The longer teams go, wherever they are located, without any hope of success the more player will look for ‘outs’. It wasn’t that long ago that seemingly every player said no to being traded to Geelong. Add a stable admin and some of field success and things have done a 180.

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