General Footy Writing: My blueprint to allow better player movement between clubs

By Luke Mother

With the Gold Coast and West Sydney about to start in the AFL, discussions about free agency are once again taking place. Some see it as a potential blight on our great game while others, like me, believe it would be a great introduction.

The basic idea is that free agency will be available to players after they’ve represented a club for a set number of years. Ricky Nixon suggested ten years but I think that may be a little too long.

Free agency, an extended trading period and changes to the draft system would make the AFL far more interesting for all fans and give greater hope to teams that languish at the bottom of the ladder. If I was cast as AFL overlord I would be making the following changes:

1. Bring in free agency for any player who has tallied six seasons with his club from the year of his senior debut. Once a player gets to year five of his playing career, clubs would be prompted to sign them to long-term deals if they want to keep them. Clubs should be able to make an informed decision on players after five years. If the player chooses not to sign, the club will still have had six years’ service and around 100 games.

2. Extend the trading period to a month so it encompasses the draft and then runs for another week, giving clubs a chance to trade during the draft, making the process more exciting. This gives clubs a chance to move up and down in the draft as it takes place depending on which players are available and who they want to pick. The extra week post draft lets clubs on-trade players they drafted or make trades for players that may fill a need not addressed in the draft.

3. Publicise player salaries. This does two things: eliminate the media speculation about wages that players and their managers always complain about; and allow supporters to get an idea of how much salary-cap room clubs have, and how much they could offer for potential free agents.

4. Make the draft a television event. The NFL and NBA have turned the draft into an art form. Picks are spaced out with teams getting between five and fifteen minutes per pick, giving them a chance to negotiate deals while the draft is in progress. Drafts are hosted by broadcasters who know what trades teams are looking at and what players they want to draft.

5. Allow the trading of future draft picks. This gives teams that want to more young talent a chance to do it in a speedier fashion. Trading away older players for picks in coming drafts means the receiving teams can more easily meet the demands of the clubs giving up players. Imagine how much easier it would have been for Geelong to give Richmond two first-round picks for Brad Otters if their future picks were available to trade. They would still have Brent Moloney and the deal could have been done in minutes.

If these five changes are made the league and the public would be better for it. Teams would no longer need to languish at the bottom of the ladder for a number of years and restock via the draft as they could chase out-of-contract players who would make them better immediately.  The salary cap also prevents the rich getting richer as all teams only have the same amount of money to spend.


  1. Mather,

    love your blueprint…looks like we are heading that way. Will the top players like Buddy Franklin control all the wealth though?


  2. coachnoodles says

    IF the top end players do control all the wealth it will be the clubs fault. If a hard salary cap remains in place the clubs need to decide weather it’s worth giving Buddy or Ablett or any other elite player 1.5mil a season and then having less to spend on the rest of their list.

    I think we all know one player doesn’t win you a premiership and it’s going to be the clubs that are clever enough at identifying players that fit their needs and are priced affordably that will succeed in the end.

    Also i think success will mean you can get players at a lower cost. If you were and handy AFL player that had never won a flag (think maybe Paul Haselby or say Brett Rutten)would you take 500k a year to play at Melbourne or 300k a year to go to say Hawthorn?

    I am so glad the AFL has made this decision. It’s only going to make the game better.

  3. Good points all of them noodles. A wise man you are.

    Player managers will certainly earn their money now in terms of bargaining even harder for their clients, likewise those who have to come up with creative accounting practices/schemes (such as ‘Visy Ambassador’) to get a player’s signature.

    What about transparency of wages? will we go like the US?

  4. coachnoodles says

    I can’t see the salaries going public yet but as player movement becomes more common i think it might.

    Players Agents will have things a bit more in their favor when it comes to negotiation but ultimately there is still the same amount of money to go around given the salary cap so it’s not like they will be making more coin.

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