It’s a funny thing, listening to people after the draft.
Teams, their representatives, and supporters seem content, almost thrilled to exploit some aspects of the AFL National Draft, but they’re not too pleased when another team manipulates the system to bolster their own ranks. It’s okay when it benefits us… not so good when it benefits others.
On Monday evening, four of the 29 first-round picks (what a joke… 29 picks in the first round) fell to the Gold Coast Suns. This, despite the club not possessing a single first-round pick when the selections commenced. Jed Walter, Ethan Read, Jake Rogers, and Will Graham all caught the eye of opposition teams, but given where these kids came from – the Northern Academy of the Suns, Gold Coast were easily able to cover the required price to leap up the order and claim their prizes, particularly after North Melbourne bid on Walter at Pick Three, instead of at Pick Two as most expected.
The Suns saw this all coming, of course, and prepared for the interest in their developing kids by trading down to amass later picks… and a heap of “points”. For the first time in the history of their club (and this is not meant to be a shot at them, by any stretch), the Suns were ahead of the game and came out of it all looking like the absolute winners of this draft.
And then came the complaints.
Early reports indicated that West Coast, Geelong, and Collingwood expressed concerns over the way the Suns were able to work the numbers and emerge with four highly-rated talents from the first round.
It seems clubs are fine with Gold Coast acting as the AFL’s nursery for the kids they might eventually want to poach, but when they get their hands on kids they’ve developed and nurtured themselves… nup, they don’t like that.
They all like Gold Coast as the losers, but they’re afraid they may just win.
This is something that the clubs should have been addressing with the league two or three years ago. Sure, they complained about the way the Dogs were able to jump the queue and access Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, but they kind of held out a bit of hope that they might be able to do the same at some stage, so the protests were subdued.
Still, the AFL catered to their whining, and adjustments were made to the draft that prevented teams from slipping in and drafting their NGA talent within the top 20 if they were bid on. However, in classic AFL style, they had some caveats that saw some teams treated that way, and other teams differently. They allowed for different rules for the Northern Academies.
Was it a mistake?
You’re damn right it was, because they lumped two existing and strong clubs in with two expansion teams. We saw Sydney snag Braeden Campbell at pick five, and Errol Gulden with this academy luxury at pick 32. The bloke almost won the Brownlow this year.
These types of decisions are always going to come back to bite the AFL. I knew it, you knew it, the clubs knew it, and it seems the only bunch of idiots that didn’t know it was the AFL. And now, they’re learning the hard way.
But on the topic of Gold Coast and the clubs complaining about what they were able to do, there is a level of hypocrisy that has to be pointed out.
You know what the Suns (plus the Giants, and even Freo, for that matter) have not had the luxury of doing? Not ever?
Picking up a father/son prospect.
They have zero players on the list that have come via the avenue that has paved the road to premierships for Collingwood, Geelong, and West Coast. You don’t think so? Tom Hawkins and Gary Ablett Junior at Geelong, Ashley McIntosh and Ben Cousins at West Coast. And just this year, two boys named Daicos, and one named Moore ran out there and played in the winning Grand Final team. All came via the father/son exception.
But the other clubs are okay with that because… screw Gold Coast and GWS. Can’t you guys just draft kids and keep them for three years until we draw them away with promises of big crowds and glory? We’ll look after the father/son picks, pass them off as “the most romantic part of footy” and you guys can get bugger all.
Sound fair? Of course it’s not fair, so when one of these clubs makes food on their academy selections, I find it hard to begrudge them their success.
Both Gold Coast and GWS, being teams that do not have a storied history and a pathway for father/son recruits for at least another ten years, deserve the kind of leg up the Northern Academy rules grant them. It makes up for the fact they get nothing from father/son selections. The sticking point, for me, at least, comes in the form of Sydney and Brisbane having the same access as the expansion teams. They already get plenty of love from the offspring of their players (Will Ashcroft and Jaspa Fletcher at Brisbane, and Tom Mitchell at Sydney). They have the team history the expansion teams don’t enjoy.
There were no cries of foul when Brisbane picked Ashcroft, or Collingwood snagged Nick Daicos in consecutive years because the serial complainers all get access to the father/son prospects. They’re not going to point out issues they could exploit, themselves.
All except GWS and Gold Coast, of course. They’ll happily point it out when it benefits those guys.
The outcry from the clubs means that the AFL will once again change things. They’ll once again be reactionary because that’s what they do. They’ll pare back the way the Northern Clubs get an advantage in the draft and bring them back into line with the rest of the league.
Yes, the academy picks need to be addressed. Yes, the value of these late picks is way too high and the Suns exploited that. And yes, we will likely see changes as a result
And you know what you won’t hear a peep about?
The fact that neither the Giants or Suns have a father/son prospect on the horizon.
But who cares about them, anyway, right? They’re just expansion teams.
That seems to be the way the old guard feels.
Father/Son Selections on the lists
ADELAIDE – MAX MICHALANNEY (2022)
BRISBANE – WILL ASHCROFT (2022) JASPA FLETCHER (2022)
CARLTON – JACK SILVAGNI (2015)
COLLINGWOOD – DARCY MOORE (2014), JOSH DAICOS (2016), NICK DAICOS (2021)
ESSENDON – ALWYN DAVEY JR (2022), JAYDEN DAVEY (2022)
HAWTHORN – WILL MCCABE (2023), CALSHER DEAR (2023)
MELBOURNE – JACK VINEY (2012), TAJ WOEWODIN (2022)
NORTH MELBOURNE – LUKE MCDONALD (2013), BAILEY SCOTT (2018), JACKSON ARCHER (2021), COOPER HARVEY (2022)
PORT ADELAIDE – JACKSON MEAD (2019), JASE BURGOYNE (2021)
RICHMOND – MAURICE RIOLI JR (2020)
ST KILDA – NONE
SYDNEY – NONE
WEST COAST – JAKE WATERMAN
WESTERN BULLDOGS – TOM LIBERATORE (2010), RHYLEE WEST (2018), SAM DARCY (2021), JORDAN CROFT (2023)
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