Dramatic Dawes Turnaround Shows Growing Instability In AFL

I have been wanting to write thise article for a good week now but haven’t been able to due to my internet crashing in the afternoon before the evening of the day I was planning on jumping on the computer to get it published. My luck was about as good as Jonothan Brown’s freak injuries’ run. Anyway, to the article.

Thinking a little bit about Chris Dawes recently and after looking at his current career situation, it really did smack me right between the eyes as to just how unstable the AFL is becoming and will continue to become in the future, especially the short to medium term, after being hit with free agency and the two expansion clubs.

Look at Dawes. In 2010, although not a star player, he was an integral part of the magpies’ line-up, playing a key role and being cemented in the team, eventually going on to become a premiership player. 2011 saw much of the same, playing a key role in what was still a losing grand final side and the second best team of the year. Even for the first half of this year Dawes was looking comfortable in the team, like a puppy who was just really starting to settle in and become confident and even cocky in its new home, and it looked like another year in his career dveloping into a key forward behind Trav Cloke as a prominent Collingwood person. If someone had’ve said to me at the beginning of the year that Dawes wouldn’t be at the Pies in 2013, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid or would have thought they were crazy, picking him out of anyone to be leaving. Yet in the space of basically half a year Dawes has gone from Magpie to Demon. All it’s taken is a bit of a form slump and struggling to adjust to a new role along with Collingwood deciding to recruit someone for a similiar role (My man the Big Q), and Dawes has decided to up stumps and move clubs.

Free agency and expansion are playing a massive part in this type of thing happening. Go back five years ago, even just two, and if a premiership player of only 2 years earlier who had been a pretty consistent performer in a successful side with plenty of years and potential in their career to come had hit a bit of a form slump for half a year, I’ve no doubt 9 times out of 10 club and player no matter who or where would have faith in each other and come up with a deal.

It’s hard to comprehend the Dawes situation but not hard to understand because that’s the world the AFL is starting to become with free agency and expansion. I know Chris Dawes was a part of a trade and no a free agent, but it was an indirect result of the impact of free agency, not to mention the fact a free agency signing, the Q-Stick, played a big part in Dawes deciding to move.

It’s the first year free agency has been in place and look at all the player movement and possible player movement in the free agency period and as a result of it the trade period as well and we can see just how unstable the AFL environment is becoming for players and clubs. Yes there have been the predictable moves with players looking for opportunity (Byrnes to Melbourne, Chaplin & Pearce to Richmond & Freo, Murphy to Gold Coast, McIntosh to Geelong etc.). But just as equally there have been in my eyes the ones that, like Dawes, at the start of the year and even towards the end were would’ve been totally unpredictable and a bit dombfounding to suggest (Young to Collingwood, Rivers to Geelong and Tippett wanting out to Sydney). I mean look at Tippett. He’s playing in a team that’s pushed Hawthorn all the way in a prelim, has so much potential in age and demographics in the team across all lines and he’s playing alonside Tex Walker as well. Yet he still finds a reason to decide he wants to leave, which may be more understandable if he wanted to live with and be closer to family, but he’s done a backflip on that by turning his back on the Gold Coast and Brisbane, saying he wants to go to Sydney instead. There’s no better example of the growing instability being created in modern footy by the new free agency system as well as the expansion clubs.

Players and clubs can no longer be certain of what’s going to happen with players, especially free agents, just deciding they want more money, success or opportunity, especially at a developing expansion club if they can’t get a game elsewhere.

That’s why I believe, although bringing in certain players to fill a role can make a difference, as we’ve seen with Sydney, the teams which can keep a core group together for the longest period of time and keep their team the most stable in terms of positions and roles will be the most successful, especially in the next 5 years. We’ve already seen it recently with Collingwood and Geelong having sustained periods of success based around having stable teams built around a core group of players, and it’s going to be even more important to be able to maintain that in the environment the AFL is slowly becoming.

Just a few more things to leave you to ponder. The one thing about free agency that scares me besides instability and favourite sons leaving clubs is the thought of the AFL becoming like the EPL and NBA where championships/premierships are practically bought by the richest clubs who always finish near the top. And the other thing is I hope it doesn’t disillusion young, aspiring footballers about why they dream of becoming an AFL player in the first place and the reasons they play this great game of ours. All we can do though is wait and see.


  1. N eil Anderson says

    A thoughtful and considered piece Brandon. It leaves most of us wondering about the future, particularly for the ‘suburban’ clubs we have grown up with…unless you are born after 1987? when the interstaters came on board.
    We Melbourneites are further and further away from when our clubs comprised of locals who would never think of jumping the fence and playing for the adjoining suburb. If they did a la Barassi to Carlton, it was the stuff of documentaries, books and theses penned. If you think the Herald Sun has football on the front page through to the back page these days, you should have seen the Sun and Herald if someone like Barassi defected.
    As far as the Chris Dawe’s situation, I plead guilty to wanting to see him line up with the Bulldogs. After reading your thoughts on the matter I’ve relented a bit . I just saw him as the type of player who could help our young undersize players, but only if he declared the Bulldogs as his club of choice. That is why Barry Hall was a great fit for the club…because he chose the Bulldogs.
    As part of my new enlightenment and looking at the early draft choices for the Bulldogs, I have swung back to the idea of ‘growing your own’ rather than trying to pick players from other clubs to bolster the current team. I guess if I’ve waited 58 years for a premiership I can wait a few more…Yes, I was a tad impatient Skip and others…
    Finally seeing Tom Liberatore coming back into the fold after his discretion(s) reminded me of the value of father/son picks. I might have to put my faith into that group of recruits and hope that they will stay around and stay loyal.

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