Something smelly about future trades

COMMENT: The AFL has little choice but to conduct a major review and overhaul of the trade and draft system after the ludicrous shenanigans which were allowed to take place under the pretence of trading on deadline day last Thursday.

How can any AFL fan, let alone the AFL clubs and players, have faith in the system as it currently stands after the League admitted its mistakes in the biggest trade deal of the year, which involved Jaeger O’Meara getting to his preferred destination of Hawthorn?

In trying to loosen up the movement of players and picks, the AFL has instead created a system so opaque that no-one, not even the likes of Hawthorn recruiting manager Graham Wright or Geelong’s recruiting guru Stephen Wells, fully understand.

It took days for it to emerge exactly what pick the Hawks had traded away as part of the O’Meara deal, with the AFL admitting it had interpreted its own rule to determine that the trade was legal.

The contention surrounds the AFL trading law which says that if a club trades a future first round pick, it can not trade any further future picks.

The Hawks had already parted way with their future first round pick in a deal with the Saints to swap picks earlier in the trade period, so under the law could not trade their second round 2017 pick as well.

The Hawks themselves admitted that they were struggling to get the O’Meara deal done because of this, but it appeared Carlton had come to their rescue, when the Blues brokered a deal to get three additional draft picks this year for a second-round pick next year (which they had previously acquired from the Giants).

That appeared to smooth the waters for an O’Meara deal with the Hawks able to send pick 10 and that second round 2017 pick acquired from the Blues to Gold Coast for the wantaway Sun.

The AFL’s own trade tracker indicated that was the case, but the Suns and the Hawks felt differently. They had done their deal on the basis it was the Hawks’ own 2017 second round pick which was on the block.

And so it took until Tuesday, five days after the deadline had passed, to confirm who had paid for what. The AFL agreed that the Hawks could trade their own second round pick despite their own law which forbids it.

Confused? You are not the only one.

Stephen Wells has orchestrated some of the best deals of the modern era, but even he is confused about what the regulation around future pick trades involve.

The Geelong recruiting manager spent much of the trade period under the impression that the Cats couldn’t trade any more future picks having already traded out of this year and last year’s first round.

However, while the rule states that a club must use two first-round picks in a rolling four-year period, it technically meant that the Cats could again trade a first rounder, so long as they could secure two picks at a later draft.

The Zach Tuohy deal saw the Cats part with their 2017 first rounder, in a deal where they got back a second rounder next year.

Wells eventually got the deal done, but when even he can’t get his head around the peculiarities of these guidelines, you have to question how effective they are.

It’s a system which ends up encouraging teams to push the boundaries, but when it takes the AFL four days to work out where those boundaries are, it’s hard to have faith that it is working.

These rules were put in place to protect the clubs from trading away their futures, for short-term gain, but in an open market, surely, it’s a case of buyer beware.

The AFL needs to draw a line now and either end the trading a future picks, or open it up completely.

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