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Big fish, small pond: A sponsorship goldmine awaits Harley Reid - he'd be mad to ever leave the Eagles

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Expert
20th May, 2024
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Saturday, August 26 last year was a major AFL ‘Sliding Doors’ day – and it is turning out to be quite monumental for two clubs.

In a parallel universe, Gold Coast defeats North Melbourne to finish the season, the Kangaroos finish last and land Harley Reid with their prized pick 1 in the National Draft, instead of West Coast. He gets to remain in his home state of Victoria, and we can only guess where the Roos would be now if this scenario played out.

I admit it’s far too simplistic to say that North would have won a game or two in 2024, clawed off the bottom of the ladder and be playing with style and purpose.

But there is something that Reid would be offering the battling cellar-dwellers: attention and marketing potential. Instead, he headed west, and his career – and the Eagles’ revival – has taken off.

A few weeks ago, I wrote that it was far too early for West Coast to be throwing millions of dollars at him so early in his career, and I still stand by that from a football contract perspective.

That does not stop him from attracting all the sponsorship endorsements he has at his feet, and will have at his feet for the next 15 years plus.

The hype and attention he is gaining across the footy world from just nine games is phenomenal – and if leveraged correctly, will be a massive money-spinner for Reid in the years and decades to come.

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Against one of the flag contenders in Melbourne, he had a goal-of-the-season contender, coupled with the double fend-off on two of the game’s best – Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca – in the same play.

They are not the first players to fall victim to Reid’s brutality, two weeks ago Essendon’s Ben Hobbs and Zach Merrett were on the end of the same treatment, as was Dustin Martin earlier in the season.

The Bulldogs’ Adam Treloar and Bombers’ Darcy Parish were almost manhandled over the boundary line in separate games as the Rising Star favourite flexed his muscles and tried to lift his team.

These moments, or highlights, generate interest and get people talking about him then in turn the club, and the game itself.

His stats weren’t too shabby either for a first-year player against the Demons – 21 disposals, two goals and four tackles.

As I said, it’s too early and too small a sample size for any long-term judgements, but what he is doing is capturing the imagination of the football world – and that is what the game is about in 2024.

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Kids need a role model who they can look up to and imitate and dream of a career in football themselves.

Eagles’ fans need a role model to give them hope after some tough years at the bottom of the ladder just as much as the club needs fans streaming through the gates to give themselves some financial stability.

The AFL itself needs a good news story amid a media pack and a section of supporters who are often too focused on negativity.

Reid is proving to be the headline act. Every time he touches the ball there is a roar of anticipation from the crowd. Even though it’s early in the season, the excitement he creates can be compared to a finals-like atmosphere.

Not since Chris Judd has Western Australia seen a young talent that has burst onto the scene with such a bang. Judd won a Brownlow at 23 and captained a premiership at 25, but it was his style of play that would drop jaws almost every time he played.

If it was all about statistics, we’d be singing the praises of Tim Kelly, Liam Duggan and Brady Hough before Reid in terms of disposals against the Dees, and Jake Waterman and Jack Darling before him in terms of goals. Instead, all anyone was talking about was the star midfielder with the number 9 on his back.

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On the West Coast Eagles official X page, his two highlights against Melbourne received 56K and 47K views – the next most popular post was 34K.

On the AFL’s official X account, Reid’s goal had 485K, easily the most viewed video from the day, ahead of the double fend-off at 163K while the next was the half-time entertainment baby race at 82K. Fox Footy’s video on the goal was also the most watched from the afternoon at 179K.

On a day when Port Adelaide also produced an unthinkable comeback against Hawthorn, the 19-year-old Eagle’s moment of magic stole the show – Darcy Byrne-Jones’ match-winner could only muster 70K.

There are also memes being made of the young star – one doing the rounds changes the HOLLYWOOD sign in Los Angeles to HARLEYWOOD. There’s another switching faces from the time Reid met Petracca as a kid after the win over the Dees.

Then, in a clip that has gone viral, some younger children who were lucky enough to get into the rooms post-game bypassed other players in blue and gold to make a beeline straight for Reid.

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The fact the No.1 draft pick already receives ‘cult-like’ status is a dream for any player manager – add to that that he is in a two-club state, and he can be the bigger fish in a smaller pond compared to what he’d be up against at one of the nine Melbourne-based clubs.

Companies would be lining up to get him on board.

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Whether his career continues on an upward trajectory or we are seeing the best of him now and the pressure ends up getting to him, he has already achieved ‘star status’, and would be well within his rights to take advantage of that.

Remember, Gary Ablett Sr, Robert Harvey, Tony Lockett and Nick Riewoldt are among the AFL’s greatest ever players to never win a premiership, but still became very famous throughout their careers and beyond.

There is no bigger person in Western Australia at the moment – and as long as Reid can keep providing highlights and using his high profile to keep people talking about and interested in footy, a potential goldmine awaits.

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So, why would he want to leave the Eagles and return to Victoria?

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