Wednesday Whinge – AFL Trade Period is messy and needs an overhaul

The AFL silly season is getting longer and sillier than ever before. In some cases it is making the sport of AFL look stupid. The AFL itself though is in two minds about this. Firstly they love the fact that the sport remains in the headlines long after the season has finished. What got more traction this week? The beginning of the NBL, Matador Cup and A-League seasons or the constant waffle about where particular players might end up in the AFL? You know the answer. At the same time, the AFL do not want to see the situations where players tell clubs mid-season where they wish to play the next year and have this announced to the media. They want this kept secret, because the AFL dominates the news already at that time of the year and they claim it is not a good look.

I think we were beginning to talk about trades right back to when Lin Jong toured the Collingwood facilities mid-year. A situation the AFL did not applaud. AFL Operations Manager Mark Evans saying at the time “They (meetings with rival players) ought to be rare and they ought to be protected by choice of venue — and post-season wherever possible.” Like it or not the day is coming where more and more players will tell their club mid-year that they will be playing elsewhere next season and a club will reveal this – much to the AFL’s displeasure. It happened with Lachie Henderson a year or two a go, where Carlton would not play him for the remainder of the season. Now that is not a good look.

The AFL now has an offical NAB Trade Radio service that operates for three weeks from 8am weekdays. Three weeks and a sponsor! It begins on the Monday, straight after the AFL Grand Final ends. This is despite the AFL Trade Period only lasting 9 or so days and not beginning until a couple of weeks after the Grand Final. The speculation, innuendo and ridiculous conversations that take place is actually embarrassing. Purely because everyone is guessing. Take Terry Wallace for example.

Wallace came out on Adelaide radio last week and said that there was no way that Hamish Hartlett would remain at Port Adelaide next year. The club had told Hartlett that he was one of many names that could be up for trade. This saw a dejected and angry Hartlett travel to Melbourne to explore his options. Not twenty-four hours later, Hartlett tells Port he will not be going anywhere. Some list manager. What a farce.

Another prime example of egg on face and speculative reporting is the mess surrounding Western Bulldogs player Lin Jong’s future. Three months ago he was a lock to go to the Pies. Then he was off to Gold Coast. Late last week it was announced that he was not going anywhere and would remain at the Bulldogs. All reported at various stages through the media. What a lot of rubbish. Did we really need to have all these conversations played out by people who are simply guessing at best?

Then there is the situations where the Victorian media try to comment on interstate clubs. Clubs they’ve blatantly ignored all year with media coverage, but then claim that they know what a certain club needs to do in the off-season to improve their list. Exhibit A.

What authority do they have to make these calls? From time to time, sure they may be able to gather some further information for fans, but tell me how many list managers and player agents are going to go onto AFL Trade Radio a week out from the Trade Period and tell the world what their players or clubs are doing. There is no way they are going to give an honest summary of what is about to happen. That is not how the industry works. Go ahead and have this service, but perhaps only during Trade Period, where trades can be reported on as they happen rather than ridiculously speculated about in the lead up.

Then there is the separate issue of clubs not being allowed to trade players who are in contact, but players who are in contract are able to ask clubs for a trade. Strange world this one. You either go all in or not at all. It creates mess otherwise. Hartlett and now Gibbs are a prime example of this. You either adopt the US model or you do not attempt the model at all. It just creates confusion and mess for everybody involved.

The AFL needs to do some work on this one. They either open it up all year that allows clubs to openly discuss contracts for next season and allow clubs to tell the media about like they do in the NRL or they restrict all speculation and discussions until the few days of the trade period. Similarly players who are contracted should be allowed to be put up for trade if they want the ability to ask for a trade while contracted. It has to be clear cut. 

The silliness continues until next Thursday. 

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