Trading the AFL’s Trade Practices

Things got crazy at the end of the NBA Trade Deadline. Isaiah Thomas was traded to the Lakers after declaring that staying in Cleveland would be neat whereas Blake Griffin was shipped off to Detroit as he discovered through a tweet. Whilst not all teams hit CTRL ALT DEL like the Cavs did, trading in the NBA is a franchise’s game where owners and managers do whatever they can to build success in their organisation.

The prevailing takeaway that comes from the NBA’s trading guidelines is how little power the players themselves have. If your club moves you on, that’s it. Pack your bags and find a new coffee shop in your new home town. The Griffin trade got me to thinking how different this compares to the AFL trading practices.

The AFL should change their list management practices to be more like the NBA.

If you will indulge me, I will embrace my inner Paul McDermott and take the affirmative for the above argument and offer a three-point plan that the AFL should make to move to the NBA’s models and practices.


Mid-Season Trading

In the NBA, organisations can alter their course by trading and changing the make-up of their roster. Alternatively, like Cleveland you can send away most your team and arrange a mulligan; if you will excuse the mixed sports metaphor. A struggling team, could change the course of their future by trading experienced players in return for younger players with potential or future draft picks.

In the Australian Football climate, this would be a win-win for clubs and players alike. The experienced player would be given an opportunity. An opportunity for a fresh start, whether that is a premiership contender or just a new environment can be as good as a holiday…well perhaps not a September one for an AFL player. For the club, an opportunity to bring in a player that could fill a role could take them from finals bound to a genuine contender itself.

For your consideration, let’s propose scenarios that could’ve come to fruition in 2017.

The Power were surging towards the finals and had identified a need for a hard-bodied midfielder. This was proven when they successfully targeted and recruited Tom Rockliff in the off-season. What if they could have got him earlier? Sure, he doesn’t “cost” when you pick up a free agent in the way of a trade but Rockliff coming into that Port midfield late in 2017 could’ve have meant ultimate success in the ‘here and now’. Brisbane could have secured a player (Aaron Young, Jackson Trengove perhaps?) and a first round pick or two to cash in on Port’s aggressive desire. Win-win: Port get more midfield ‘power’ and Brisbane get even more for the loss of the ‘Fantasy Pig.’

And here’s a left field selection. If they needed to wait for Rockliff, how about a player that was out of favour? A player who was an All-Australian, with the ability to burst through and give the midfield a hard-bodied X-factor option? I’m talking Jake Stringer. A change of scenery at Essendon might prove the catalyst for Stringer to reclaim his best form. So who’s to say that it couldn’t have happened at Port Adelaide? During the magical Bulldogs finals run in 2016 he was down on form. However in key moments such as the fourth quarter of the Grand Final, the ‘Package’ delivered to rest momentum for the Dogs. Stringer could have alternated in the Port setup, much like Robbie Grey and give them more strings to their bow to move deeper into September. In return, the Dogs could have pinched Trengove who they had been courting but also picked up some more picks to take to the 2017 Trade Period. And hey, call me the ‘King of Wishful Thinking’ but perhaps Trengove could’ve helped sneak the Doggies into September in 2017 as he covered for ‘The Big Dog’ Tom Boyd.

‘G-League’ Contracts

If mid-season trades were not the answer, G-League style development contracts could be. In a day and age where all clubs have an affiliate or standalone team in state competitions, there are mature bodies running around and carving up competitions.

In the NBA, a player can be signed to a two-way contract. With this two-way contract, the player is based predominantly with the G-League affiliate side. Put simply, the G-League is the NBA’s equivalent to the AFL’s state competitions such as the VFL, WAFL, SANFL, etc. The player who is signed to the two-way contract can spend up to 45 days in the season playing for the NBA side; the rest of that time is spent in the G-League.

A ‘G-League’ contract could work wonders for an AFL club who suffers a cruel run with injuries or would love to cash-in on the scintillating form of a player in the state leagues. Journalists will often decree that a week is a long time in football, so 45 days would be an eternity.

This is how I propose a G-League contract would work in the AFL –

  • As these contracts are based on shrewd recruiting and a possible top up of the list, let’s call them something cooler. Let’s call them “Dew Contracts” based on the shrewd recruitment of Stuey Dew in Hawthorn’s 08 flag. Also given that the NBA’s G-League is sponsored by Gatorade, maybe we could entice Mountain Dew to come on board here.
  • Each club will only be able to offer a maximum of two Dew contracts a season. However, they can only have one player on a Dew contract at any one time.
  • A player must be aged 21 or over to be eligible for a Dew contract and must not have been on an AFL list in the current season.
  • The contract can be held for a maximum of 32 consecutive days. This would allow the player to play up to 4 games. If the Dew contracted player was signed after the completion of Round 23, this could be extended until after the Grand Final.


As further incentive for the club and the player, draft rights could also be awarded as part of a Dew contract. Should the player impress, the club could nominate him much like a father-son player in that year’s draft. At that time, other clubs would be able to place a bid which the original club could choose to match or reject.

For a team like GWS in 2017, this top-up player could have assisted them during their injury issues and may have seen them get through to the last Saturday in September. Though with respect, Toby Greene would not have been nearly as endearing had he sang with Brandon Flowers.

On the flip side, Gold Coast would have benefited by having the ability to bring in mature bodies to support their side when their playing stocks were depleted.

Club Control

As devastating as it would be to find out that you have been traded via social media, it was refreshing to see a team be able to made a trade they believed to be beneficial for their organisation such as the Clippers did. Let’s not take away from consideration that despite their ability to put on superhero performances, all sportspeople are actually human…shocking, right?

Whilst they are incredibly dedicated to their sport, much like you, me and Dupree they have lives outside of their occupation that are equally if not more important. Family, friends, partners, children; they must all be considered whenever a player is traded.

My personal belief (and easy for me to say from the comfort of my couch with no dependents) is that when you sign up to be drafted in the AFL that you must be willing to play wherever the draft cards take you. In this day and age of free agency, an AFL player can move to the club of their choosing when they have played long enough to earn that right. Until that time, a club should be able to trade their player to the club of their choosing to get the best deal for themselves. In an increasing trend, we are seeing young players hold their current club to ransom to get to their choice of club. This leaves the club having to accept a lesser deal due to the fact they have lost any upperhand in the negotiations.

Don’t get me wrong, although Rihanna would be friends with me; I’m no monster. Given the upheaval involved with moving a family in the middle of the year (especially ones with school children), I would decree that all mid-season trades would require player consent. However, if it is in the end of the season trade period, the club would have the final say. In most situations, clubs would look to accommodate but with the power they hold would not be forced to acquiesce to an inferior offer to what they deserve. Although clubs do have great support systems in place for the relocation of players, I would also institute a mandatory $25,000 payment to be made to player who has to move to a club that is interstate or over 70km away (for Melbourne-based to Geelong or Brisbane to the Gold Coast moves). This would help with rent, school moves, mortgage fees and these sorts of incidentals.

This three-point plan would embrace some of the better aspects of the NBA’s list management practices. Through the implementation of these functions, it would provide more flexibility to clubs and players alike. Recruiters, coaches and list manager are some of the best brains in football, so let’s arm them with more tools to make the most of their talents.


So what do you think? Agree? Disagree? What changes would you make? Or is everything fine as it is? I would love to hear your thoughts, so please post your comments below.

Image sourced from The Age

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  1. Great thoughts.As a parent part of me would be worried at thought of being moved any time. But I do see the merits in it. Players cannot have it both ways. At the moment the power has shifted too far into the players hands. Yes without them their would be no Aussie Rules. But you can also say that about the club. No player is greater than the club. One thing I would like to know is how the NBA handles free agency? would that be something the AFL might relax a little? (make it sooner for players).

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