The end-of-season trading period is one of those events that is looked forward to, but often disappoints due to the lack of activity relative to the length of the trade period, as well as the unrealistic and unworkable demands of some clubs who don’t seem to understand why others refuse to exchange their gold nugget for a steaming turd.
Even so, there is a fascination about trading that intrigues sports fans. The rising popularity of Dream Team and similar fantasy competitions is testament to this, with the Dream Team competition organisers (or should that be advertisers?) providing an ever-increasing number of trades, as well as the ability to cancel, recreate, swap and resuscitate them, to the point where the game is barely more than a share market simulation exercise.
So what about enabling clubs to trade or draft players during the year? Without going as extreme as Dream Team, where the object is to get you to view an advertisement for a car/bank/whatever as many times as is humanly possible, is this something that the AFL should consider?
The concept of a mid-season draft was raised as recently as 2011 but didn’t get off the ground. It may have been that the impending introduction of free agency – albeit in a limited form compared to overseas sports, particularly in the US – was considered enough of a departure from the relatively straightforward AFL club movement processes of the past.
The idea does have its merits. One of the main benefits of allowing a period of player movement during the season would be to cover for long-term injuries or major holes in positions where earmarked players haven’t met expectations.
For example, Fremantle could replace Scott Gumbleton as their second marking forward that might have been, but never was. Richmond could bolster their back-up ruck stocks after the dubious pre-season decision to bring in Shaun Hampson to fill that position.
There are plenty of examples where just one player could be the missing piece of the puzzle for a charge towards the finals. Plus, it may give a previously-overlooked player (or one battling away but performing well in state league) an opportunity that may not have been available otherwise.
It’s the top eight clubs where this concept stacks up best. Not even God strapping on a pair of Nikes would help the likes of 2014 disappointments such as Carlton and Richmond, but for the Ports and Collingwood, both struggling to recapture good early season form, it could be the boost they need to tighten up a wobbly wheel.
Taking it a step further is allowing players already on clubs’ lists to move to another club mid-season. Think Jeremy Laidler at Carlton last year. A clearly talented player, as evidenced by his performances at Sydney this year, who for some reason the coach didn’t like. A mid-season trade period would have enabled him to ply his trade at AFL level rather than in the VFL. The same could have been said last year for Nick Duigan, also at Carlton.
And then the final frontier would be to permit the loaning of players between clubs, as is the case with soccer. This would be a bridge too far for most AFL fans who struggle enough just seeing one of their players in the colours of another club, as evidenced by the culture of booing previous players (with the exception of GWS’s Rhys Palmer on the weekend as I noted, with most Dockers’ fans happy to have thrown in a set of steak knives to the deal).
It’s likely that the ability of players to move between clubs will become less restrictive in the future. Expect to see the issue of mid-season movement raised again once the concept of free agency becomes further entrenched as the norm in the AFL.
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