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Loyalty or fairness: The solution to the player movement conundrum

Patrick Moran Roar Rookie

By Patrick Moran, Patrick Moran is a Roar Rookie


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    From AFLX to the match review panel, the AFL has become an industry engulfed in constant change and progression.

    A twilight grand final looks inevitable, as does the removal of the centre bounce. All that remains to be seen is when these changes occur.

    Amongst the plethora of changes and proposals, one issue continues to divide the football public: mid-season player movement. With Sam Naismith’s season ending before it began, the Swans have inadvertently become central to this discussion.

    Callum Sinclair and Darcy Cameron are the only other ruck options, although the recently retired Kurt Tippet remains on the list and is technically eligible to play.

    Are the Swans at an unfair disadvantage, having lost two talls before Round 1? Or should adversity merely be accepted as part of sport, ultimately making triumph so much sweeter?

    These questions are difficult and subjective to answer, which is what makes mid-season movement such a contentious issue. Some will point to the Western Bulldogs 2016 premiership as an example of success in the face of injury; a tale made better by the difficulties faced.

    Others will suggest that a failure to allow the Swans to replace Naismith contradicts the measures put in place to equalise the competition.

    Perhaps the biggest worry among fans is the so-called ‘Americanisation’ of the sport. Player movement to the level demonstrated in US sport is not something to strive for; Chucky Brown played for 12 different NBA franchises, John O’Sullivan played for 11 NFL teams and Octavio Dotel played for 13 MLB sides.

    These are statistics that no AFL fan wants to see in their beloved game.

    Player movement is also excessive in European football, with Manchester City spending £217.3 million in the 2017 summer transfer window. While Premier League spending was at a record high in the recent January (mid-season) transfer window, with £430 million spent, the majority of activity occurs during the off-season.

    In fact, Premier League Clubs spent a combined £1.47 billion during the last summer window.

    So while fears of increased player movement in the AFL are rational, a mid-season window will never see as much movement as an off-season one.

    Last year, 31 trades were made along with three free agency moves, in addition to delisted players finding new homes through the draft and free agency.

    Therefore, it would be logical to assume that the number of mid-season moves would be a small fraction of a number which is already minute when put in a global context. Perhaps this is all a big fuss about nothing.

    Even so, the idea of an AFL player switching alliances mid-season would take a lot of getting used to. In reality, it would probably only be a small number fringe players changing clubs, but it still doesn’t sit right.

    Jackson Trengove

    (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

    What we need is a compromise, allowing clubs to replace injured or retired players, but preserving the loyalty of players for an entire campaign, and Williamstown coach Andy Collins has the perfect answer.

    In the wake of Ben Griffiths’ unexpected retirement, Collins suggested following a more-bearable American model, which would allow clubs to recruit players from state-leagues to cover long-term injuries and retirements.

    “Once the AFL have drafted players and overlooked others, as soon as they’re 19 or 20 they should all, to me, be free agents. If a club wants to pick them up, they should be able to without having to go through the draft system”, he said.

    “The ramifications for a stand-alone VFL club? We’ll bear it. To lose our best player, but for them to potentially play AFL footy, it’s great for morale and it’s great for our brand”.

    This proposal would allow more players like Kane Lambert to rise to the top level while giving others a second chance at AFL. Matt Dea, for example, has now played 27 senior games at Essendon, having been recruited through a similar avenue.

    Collins’ idea is the best of both worlds. It stops players from changing colours mid-season, keeping the AFL safely away from the player movement levels demonstrated in the Northern Hemisphere, while also allowing clubs to cover for unexpected losses.

    Allowing clubs to top-up their lists can help them maintain a push for finals action, which would ensure that loyalty, fairness and competitive football are all equally preserved.

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    The Crowd Says (7)

    • Roar Guru

      March 12th 2018 @ 10:09am
      Wayne said | March 12th 2018 @ 10:09am | ! Report

      Don’t bother having state leagues then, if they are literally just something to do before AFL clubs raid.

      Player lists are long enough. You shouldn’t reward either unluckiness or incompetence of a list manager.

      The SANFL was once a great comp, 2nd only to the AFL. Now its a shell of its former self. If you allow the AFL to pluck the handful of near AFL players out, to only play for their reserves teams, then why bother???

    • March 12th 2018 @ 11:09am
      Kris said | March 12th 2018 @ 11:09am | ! Report

      Williamstown losing a player in August might be tolerable, but if they lost 6 and went from premiership candidate to easybeats?

      When we last had a midseason draft it was a flop. The guys drafted out of state leagues understandably thought; taking 10 weeks off work? potentially moving interestate? for not much more money? no guarantee to play? no guarantee to get a contract for the following season? missing out on the chance to win a premiership where I am?

      • Roar Guru

        March 12th 2018 @ 12:25pm
        Paul D said | March 12th 2018 @ 12:25pm | ! Report

        Agreed on the impracticalities of drafting fringe players interstate – but I think if clubs were restricted to local leagues only (within the home state) it would go a fair way to addressing that issue.

        While I do lean towards the view above, in the sense that you have your squad of 38 or so players, pick 22, too bad if you have injuries – I will say that if it came down to a choice between a mid-season trade window, or the option of drafting players from state leagues, I’d prefer the state league draft option every time. It’s a much better story than clubs doing stroke of midnight deals and players changing hands mid-season. The players might be ok with it, but it’s one of those things that makes fans stop taking the game as seriously, and ultimately damages the fabric of support.

        • March 13th 2018 @ 5:52am
          Kris said | March 13th 2018 @ 5:52am | ! Report

          Sydney’s chance to recruit a replacement ruckman would basically be the 2 NEAFL clubs, North’s would be a 10-team VFL.

          If the issue is depth, simply have player lists of 50 and the ability to loan-out your fringe players outside the state league. 22 play AFL, 16 play State League and 6 or 7 play community football.

          • Roar Guru

            March 13th 2018 @ 11:07am
            Paul D said | March 13th 2018 @ 11:07am | ! Report

            And? We get academy picks up north, I think that’s a fair compromise. So their depth players are ever so slightly better. Maybe. I’d be ok with that.

            50 man rosters – ick. We are talking the very, very occasional recruitment of someone from a state league to replace a key position role that you can’t just throw a generic midfielder into. I don’t think we need to go overboard. Can’t see this happening more than a couple of times every 5 years.

            If someone was genuinely good in the state leagues they’d have been drafted already

    • March 13th 2018 @ 4:35pm
      truetigerfan said | March 13th 2018 @ 4:35pm | ! Report

      Thumbs up for the Andy Collins proposal. I think you’d find most clubs would just carry their injuries. In only the most desperate of circumstances would clubs use this suggestion. To suggest a VFL club could lose up to 6 players is farcical, just would not happen. It may open up another pathway to an AFL career other than through the draft. This could be a good thing.

    • March 14th 2018 @ 2:34pm
      christy olsen said | March 14th 2018 @ 2:34pm | ! Report

      Please, please hear me on this.
      You DO NOT want mid-season trading.
      I am an American, and I’m telling you it’s horrible.
      Baseball is probably the worst, but all the leagues have it.
      Free agency is bad enough.

      In America, no clubs put much effort into developing mid-tier players.
      Once a guy starts to get good, he leaves for more money.
      Poor clubs can’t afford to keep their best players.
      The rich clubs simply buy the best players.
      So there’s very little long-term investment in development.

      It does make sense, though, that if a player wasn’t drafted, he can sign with anyone.
      Also, why not let clubs find replacements for injured players up until R1?
      Then every club starts with forty healthy players.

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