Draft Day – Not as good as the movie and the AFL has the wrong script

by Steve Earl



This is the first draft I’ve taken any interest mainly because my son is of draft age and until a year ago had some aspirations to play our great game before deciding to pursue a basketball opportunity in the States whilst studying. But having coached Fitzroy Juniors for a number of years and affiliations with a number of other Yarra Junior Clubs (players), plus Xavier footy there’s a number of young men with whom I have been involved and are nervously awaiting the outcome of this three day debacle.


In the States, Draft day with its live trades and associated hype centres around players who’ve had a number of years college sport so they are generally 20-21 years of age before they are drafted. In those college years they have trained professionally, lived a sportsman’s life and played in front of significant crowds and learned how to deal with media, coaching expectations and importantly supporter expectation and adulation. So we witness a hype that includes young men, not young boys.


Our TAC system has just jettisoned those players who may have been in the system these past 2-3 years and haven’t been nominated for the draft and many of those won’t find their way back to club land as the fall from grace or the high position they’ve held at TAC makes it too hard to face those mere mortals back at the club of origin. True that’s not all of them – but there’s significant numbers that give the game away before they’re 20-21.


There’s no safety net for the ones that don’t make it – there’s no counseling or transition back to club – just thanks for the effort, been nice knowing you and hope your future’s bright.


So I watch the first night and comment to my son how much the AFL has copied draft day and feel for the young boys who having just completed their VCE equivalents face the media and expectations of the AFL public in achieving their dream. For those drafted the excitement and thrill was there for all to see – but we didn’t see the heartache or disappointment of those who were there to make up the numbers and who may well get drafted today – leaving another group of young boys to face tomorrows concluding show.


I’ve been of the opinion draft age should be a year or two older and I’m certainly of the opinion that this show mimicking its American counterpart is the bloated opinionated AFL hierarchy doing its best to be showmen – stuff the consequences.


All junior and Under 19 footy clubs should be reaching out to their aspirants in this and future drafts offering support if the axe falls – for certain the AFL’s not going to think of it.



  1. Amen to everything you say Steve. Seeing young boys (not yet men) come through Swan Districts Colts and either be sucked into or spat out of the AFL/professional sport vortex – what stands out to me is their immaturity. Like the young men who went to WW1 they are unaware of the dangers and consequences ahead and throw half developed bodies and undeveloped minds into the battle.
    The monsters need to be fed on eager young flesh.
    Like you I wish there was an extra couple of years at a local club mixing with men and mentors, but the AFL is too far gone around the “specialised youth development” path to turn back. Cannon fodder.

  2. david stiff says

    Thanks for your article Steve
    I wish your son the very best and am hopeful (but more so expectant) that his decision to go stateside for hoops and schooling will pay off in the longer term. I did the same thing many years ago and still wish I was there.
    Peter, you’ve summed it up so well also. It’s all quite a vampiric business; all in the name of developing the game.

  3. Relevant article Steve. Excellent comment Peter. Alas, this is what we have with professional sport now..Like many, I bemoan the simple days of firsts, seconds and thirds where everyone seemed to be nurtured and have a useful place from teens through to retirement. Even players past their prime were considered to be valuable mentors whether it be playing in the seconds or coaching the thirds.

  4. Some pertinent points here, Steve.
    I have long been disturbed by the AFL’s seemingly never-ending quest to take on board everything American.
    Safe travels to your son.

  5. Steve agree with every single letter in your article.I to watched with baited breath re several youngsters whether they were picked up,re Luke Valente the emotion of not being selected on the 1st night and then being picked up by Fremantle it was a real roller coaster personally yes definitely older
    ( the 4 Norwood kids selected did not play a league game ) and while hard to do reintroduce zones

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