It is estimated that just eight spots in Friday afternoon’s AFL rookie draft will be open to new additions to a club.
The rest of the selections will be used to upgrade players, or re-rookie them.
To call it a rookie draft is now a misnomer. Bryce Gibbs was the first selection in last year’s rookie draft, giving him the great honour of being the No.1 draft pick at the start of his career and the No.1 rookie selection at the end of it.
Eddie Betts and Grant Birchall spent 2021 on the retirement (sorry, rookie) list too. By this definition, Geelong could claim to be full of rookie-types.
In reality, the rookie draft is now a money-shuffling show which clubs use, within the rules, to manage their salary cap.
As a result, the game has replaced by osmosis what was once an incentive for clubs to give late developers such as Nick Maxwell, Brett Kirk, Dean Cox and Aaron Sandilands a chance to prove their worth, with a bureaucratic device.
That’s not to blame the clubs, who point out that putting such players on the rookie list to have $85,000 sitting outside the salary cap creates another spot on the primary list, which is a critical shift with COVID-19 having impacted total player payments and list sizes.
North Melbourne’s Jared Polec will be the highest-profile player to find themselves on a rookie list on Friday afternoon, but the 146-game rookie will not be alone.
The responsibility to re-align the player exchange system lies at the feet of the AFL, and the rookie list is the most obvious component to lose its mooring.
Other parts of the system need to be re-examined, too, with the bidding system and the need for clubs to accumulate points to match bids bordering on a farce.
It’s now overly complicated and completely unexplainable to any sane member of the football-watching public with different rules applying to bids for father-son, northern academy and next-generation academy graduates.
Keep the listing process real, simple and relevant.
Start with the old rookie list and work your way through the system.
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