After writing yesterday’s piece on AFL broadcast rights, I gave some thought to free agency, the trade period and whether the current AFL system is equitable to all clubs. Most stories that have been in the media recently talk of lower ranked clubs like Melbourne, Western Bulldogs and GWS losing players to the top dogs of the competition in Hawthorn, North Melbourne, Sydney or Geelong.
It seems most players want to go to a club that can challenge for a flag immediately or in the not too distant future. Take for example Mitch Clarke – he wants out of the Demons to go to Geelong (a usual top four finisher) and James Frawley appears certain to also leave the Demons to go to…..well you take your pick of the top clubs. His name has been mentioned in the same sentence as Hawthorn (this year’s premiers in case you missed it), Geelong and Fremantle. Haven’t heard any rumors that he was considering St Kilda, Western Bulldogs, GWS or staying at Melbourne.
What this means is that the stronger clubs get stronger as they pick off the good talent from the weaker clubs….and we know what that means. The weaker clubs get weaker and so the cycle continues. How is this different to the pre-draft days of the 1970’s and 1980’s when the size of the cheque book dictated the strength of the team and where you finished on the ladder. Seems to me we have replaced one bad system with another and it will only get worse as the years go by.
Speaking of broadcast rights…..if the AFL becomes too much of a lop sided competition, I don’t know that it will foster interest in the game, get bums on seats and people watching on TV, all of which affects the amount of money the broadcasters are willing to pay for the content.
I’d suggest this should be a priority issue for the AFL to address.