Local Footy: Points system offers solution to salary-cap farces

While NRL fans wring their hands about Melbourne Storm’s salary-cap controversy, and AFL fans wonder how many of their clubs would survive forensic scrutiny of player finances, half a dozen Victorian country football leagues are content in the knowledge that their particular solution to the problem of containing player payments is working just nicely.

These leagues have adopted a system in which players are allotted points according to whether they’re playing at their original club or whether they’ve been recruited from elsewhere. It’s a system that rewards loyalty and deters cashed-up recruiting binges. It’s also a system that’s easy to administer. In the past, competitions like the Ovens and Murray league have introduced salary caps only to abandon them because they’ve been impossible to police without a lot of time, money and effort.

Under the Mornington Peninsula competition’s points system, players at their original club are allotted one point while recruits are allotted points on a sliding scale. Ex-AFL players are allotted up to six points, ex-state league players are penalised up to four points, while recruits from the best suburban or country leagues incur a two-point penalty. The maximum tally for each team’s 22 players is 39 points. A few years ago, Keysborough played fewer interchange players to enable it to field more recruits and still fit under the points cap, but that loophole was closed and all senior teams must now field 22 players.

During the recent off-season, Mornington Peninsula officials responded to concern that lesser player traffic would diminish the standard of the league by ruling that every team can have one player who is allotted no points. He is the marquee player. On Saturday, Karingal’s marquee player, former Port Adelaide ruckman Brendon Lade, kicked six goals as the Bulls defeated Chelsea by 38 points.

Mornington Peninsula operations manager Ian Benson said the points system works because it’s black and white. “No one can dispute a player’s points tally,” he said.

The Gippsland Football League has drawn up its points system to reflect the population of the towns in which its clubs are based. Traralgon is from a town of 22,000. It’s allowed 31 points. Clubs from towns of between 10,000 and 20,000 (Morwell, Sale, Warragul) are allowed 33 points, while clubs from towns of between 5000 and 10,000 (Drouin, Maffra, Moe and Wonthaggi) have a maximum of 35.

The only Gippsland league club from a town with a population of less than 5000, Leongatha, is allowed 37 points. On Saturday, Leongatha overcame its small base to defeat Warragul by 18 points despite shocking kicking. The final score was 6.18 (54) to 5.6 (36).

A curio of Gippsland’s system is that ex-AFL players are allotted only one point if they return to their club of origin, as has been the case with former Geelong half-back Dan McKenna. McKenna has returned to Traralgon. On Saturday, he continued his fine form for the Maroons by kicking three goals as a stand-in full-forward while his team defeated Sale by 40 points.

Sunraysia league president Peter Congress said his competition would have folded if the points system had not been introduced in 2005. “It saved our league,” Congress said.

At that stage, six of the eight Sunraysia league teams were insolvent because of hefty player payments; only Mildura Imperials and Robinvale were in the black. Imperials, a club with a strong junior development scheme, was also the only club to have won a premiership over the previous decade without dangling dollars all around Australia.

The success of the Sunraysia points system is indicated by the fact that all eight clubs are now in the black and premierships are being shared around without clubs almost going to the wall, as happened with Merbein earlier this decade. Last year’s premier, Wentworth, won the premiership with 19 home-grown players in its team of 21. On Saturday, Wentworth suffered its first defeat for the season when Mildura Imperials snatched victory by two points.

Other Victorian country competitions to have embraced a points system include the Central Murray, Yarra Valley and Ellinbank leagues. Some competitions, notably the Ovens and Murray league, have rejected a points system because they believe it would stem the flow of recruits, but others are weighing up the merits of proposed schemes.

There appears no reason why the AFL and NFL could not adopt points systems to even out their competitions. At the least, these schemes would be transparent.


  1. Tony Roberts says

    Here, here! Not quite sure how these points systems would translate to the big leagues, but at a guess, I’d suggest that the combined points tallies for Smith, Slater, Inglis and Cronk at Melbourne Storm would be less than for…um, say Judd at Carlton (or is that Visy?).

    Would be interested if you ran the rule over a few big names and applied the formula to AFL clubs.

  2. Dave Nadel says

    Does the points scheme apply in the Hampden League, Paul? I seeem to remember when I lived in Warrnambool in the 80s that Warrnambool not only wore Carlton’s colours but also behaved like them. Ex VFL players would come to the South West recruited by poorer clubs like Port Fairy or Koroit and when their first contract expired Warrnambool would offer them a larger one.

  3. Daff – good old Aussie improvisation. Brilliant. The points system is similar to the idea of players contributing to a pool during their careers and then being able to draw down on the pool at the end of their career if they stayed a one club player.

  4. I reckon this idea, perfect for “smaller” leagues, can still be a model at the top level. For example, there needs to be a way to reward clubs that develop youth, perhaps by allowing a small levy (like the veterans list) on to their second contract.

  5. Tony,

    Sorry it’s taken a while (computer’s been playing up like billy-o) but here’s a stab:

    1 point for players who’ve been at the one club and played 0-100 games or more than 200 games
    2 points if those players are on 100-200 games (ie. in their prime)
    5 points for those who swap clubs aged 25 or more
    10 points for those who swap clubs aged 24 or less
    15 points for those who are playing at their third or fourth club
    1 point for those who’ve been sacked by one club and picked up by another
    0 points for those over 30 who are playing at their original club
    1 point for those over 30 who swap to another club

    Set the maximum at, say, 60 points.

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