The AFL has a serious problem on its hands.
The National Draft is quickly becoming anything but, as the pool of supremely talented youngsters tell clubs they want to remain close to home.
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As the AFL’s trade period finished up, clubs will now turn their attention to the next crop of stars who could bolster their playing squad.
But in recent years the go-home factor has become far more prevalent and is forcing clubs to focus their attention not necessarily on the best talent, but the closer to home talent.
The issue has slowly been bubbling away but over the past five to six years it has exploded with Code Sports’ Daniel Cherny pointing out that “top five picks from five of the last six drafts have gone home”.
Further to that, at least one top five pick from every draft since 2010 has returned to their home state. This trade period alone there have been three: Izak Rankine, Luke Jackson and Jason Horne-Francis.
It’s a damning figure and makes the process of selecting young talent even harder for clubs.
GWS football manager Jason McCartney conceded the draft is far different for interstate clubs when the drafts are “littered with Victorian talent”.
It has resulted in a wild trade period with interstate clubs trading high-end draft picks like never seen before. The Eagles moved back in the draft to where more West Australian talent is likely to land, while the Giants moved up to number one where they’re expected to draft Aaron Cadman.
McCartney said his and other interstate clubs need to approach the draft in a different manner to Victorian-based clubs. With it also being reported some young players have outright shut down the prospect of being selected by an interstate team.
“I completely understand why West Coast moved from three and go out into the mid-part of the first round, and it’s exactly the same reason why we were sitting at three and wanted to get to one,” McCartney said.
“When you’re an interstate club and the draft board is predominantly, at the top end, looks like it’s littered with Victorian talent, you’ve got some risk there.
“You might think it’s fine that you just pick this player and you get them into your environment and your system and it’s all fine, but if there’s apprehension about a player right from the word go about making the move interstate and they may go home, you just can’t take the risk unfortunately.
“The draft board for us and maybe some other interstate clubs, it’s not the same draft board (as the Victorian clubs). And that’s ok, that’s the reality. We’re not complaining about it. So we do have to look at things a little bit differently.
“Everyone can throw up the players and we love all the players that have been talked about but there’s some we can’t pick. That’s the reality.”
The ugly truth from McCartney exposes the AFL’s biggest problem with Collingwood skipper Scott Pendlebury agreeing the current draft system is broken.
ABC broadcaster Daniel Garb believes the younger players set to enter the AFL ranks should be taught a lesson by those playing other national sports.
“Aspiring AFL players should be lectured by Aussie footballers️, basketballers, tennis players etc about the lengths they’ve gone to in order to fulfil their dreams. Yes, it’s a different culture but the go home factor is out of control now & the draft has become compromised,” Garb wrote.
“Must be said, there are many AFL players who have left home over many yrs & added plenty to their clubs & still are. But its trending horribly at the moment. Unless you have a serious family issue, it’s hardly a burden to live a couple hrs away on great money to fulfil a dream.
“Most would probably love it, like many currently are, but they’re being conditioned to think differently now. Sydney Swans players love their brotherhood, which is born from leaning on each other because they come from all over the country, and attribute their success to it.”