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Could a 'black book' fix free agency?

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Roar Guru
6th September, 2018

With player movements being firmly a sticking point, clubs are being held to ransom by want-away players. Is there a better method than compensation picks?

I think so.

Basically, a proposed system I would suggest for player movements is to dehumanise the process; and treat players like used cars, with the AFL as the broker and ‘black book holders’ of player values.

This method is to address the idea of young players finishing up their first three-to-five years and wanting to go to a particular club, independent of the clubs trying to make a fair trade. Specifically if a Saints player says “I want to play for Kangaroos, make it happen or I quit”, and a trade is manufactured.

Put simply the two clubs are advised of the buying price and the selling price of a player, and have to agree to those terms for a ‘trade’ to be made. This is slightly different to a normal trade, because it introduces another factor, there is going to be a profit made by the AFL.

Let’s take Tom Lynch as an example. To get Tom Lynch at your club, it will cost 2,517 Draft Points, paid to the AFL in the form of returning high draft picks. Gold Coast in return however, would not receive all of this, maybe receiving the equivalent of Pick 7 (1,644 Draft Points) in return. Using Richmond as the buyer, having to pay Pick 2, and Gold Coast in return would get Pick 7.

Tom Lynch

Tom J Lynch (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

The idea being, make this option really unattractive to clubs, and push for them to trade in a fair and equal trade. While also holding the want away players to account, by nominating destination clubs at a premium price to be paid to get them, while the club losing them will be ‘some compensation’ but not a one-for-one.

Ultimately, a system like this would replace the restricted and free agency with weighting to the ‘return value’ diminishing based on the various factors that the existing compensation picks attract.


Where this system would differ, and one movement is independent of any other deals or trades. So clubs won’t be able to say “we will let this player walk as a free agent, but won’t get anyone in as to not affect our compensation”.

The idea of diluting the draft picks that get moved around (and a caveat, it must always be the highest draft picks used to pay), is to avoid the situation where if Carlton and Gold Coast where to receive compensation and free agent picks, they would hold the Top 5 picks. Under this system, Gold Coast’s additional pick would be much lower in the draft for losing Lynch, more in line if a trade was to be conducted.

A system that facilities player movements might not necessarily be popular, but with more and more players nominating their preferred destinations even as contracted players or non-free agents, this solution could solve a problem that is sitting on the horizon.