Should the AFL implement a longer contract for first-year draftees?

Is this a big issue for player retention?

GWS list manager Jason McCartney believes so, as the Giants are preparing to lose some of their talent in the upcoming 2022 AFL Trade Period.

But let’s take a look at it.

When youngsters get drafted into the AFL via the NAB AFL Draft, clubs are bound by a minimum contract of two years, which isn’t long enough according to McCartney.

According to the AFLPA CBA article 22.3 ‘First Year Player’ it states that:

“When a first year Player is first drafted by an AFL Club, that Player and the AFL Club shall enter into a Standard Playing Contract for a minimum term of two years…”

Giant Tanner Bruhn’s trade request to Geelong after two seasons is ‘disappointing’ for McCartney, as he believes GWS wasn’t afforded enough required time, according to SEN.

“Two years, that is really disappointing. No doubt there has been conversations had for a while and the AFLPA is involved, but our conversations with the AFLPA are around that fact,” McCartney said.

“Those first-year draftees, the two-year standard contract needs to be longer, that’s for sure.”

The Giants, alongside fellow expansion club Gold Coast, have been subject to player exodus’ since their inception, with rival clubs swooping on vulnerable players early in their careers.

McCartney believes the early period in a player’s career is now when clubs are forced to offer big money and long contracts to retain talent, to ensure they stay on the list.

“What we’re getting also is there’s an explosion in player salaries third year when they become open market. You look at ourselves and Gold Coast … what happens is you do have to pay a premium in that third year to retain the player,” McCartney said.

“That’s fine when the player is performing and you’re paying for production, but players develop at different rates.

“The challenge is you’re in a position where you’re having to pay top dollar just to retain the players. Ultimately that puts pressure on your salary cap as well.”

The array of top-end talent and high draft picks has contributed to the social darwinism that lives within the expansion clubs, a theme the 16 other clubs rarely have.

This refers to the inability to fit 30-or-so first round draft picks or highly talented players into a side of 23, meaning some players would miss out and potentially seek other opportunities because of it.

Although it does occur around the nation, the Giants are hit particularly hard in this aspect.

What does history tell us?

Looking back since the beginning of 2012 (GWS’ first year), there have been 16 players who left the Giants after their initial two-year contract, headed by Collingwood’s Taylor Adams and St Kilda’s Jack Steele.

Other players who have forged impressive careers since leaving the Giants are Carlton trio Matthew Kennedy, Will Setterfield and Caleb Marchbank.

Essendon’s Jye Caldwell quickly returned to Victoria after his two-year stint while Jackson Hately went back home to Adelaide.

Bruhn is more than likely to be added to the list, with the Giants conceding the fact they cannot hold onto him, unless succumb to paying overs.

Despite GWS not wanting to retain all 16 players who left after their initial contract, there is still reasoning behind extending the minimum years.

The Suns were only subject to three players leaving after the minimum term, that being Josh Caddy, Jarrod Garlett and Jack Scrimshaw but have struggled to retain key players as the club has yet to make the finals.

Club Player Name Year Rival Club
Gold Coast Josh Caddy 2011-2012 Geelong
Gold Coast Jarrod Garlett 2015-2016 Carlton
Gold Coast Jack Scrimshaw 2017-2018 Hawthorn
GWS Dom Tyson 2012-2013 Melbourne
GWS  Shaun Edwards 2012-2013 Essendon
GWS Anthony Miles 2012-2013 Richmond
GWS Taylor Adams 2012-2013 Collingwood
GWS Josh Bruce 2012-2013 St Kilda
GWS Sam Darley 2012-2013 Western Bulldogs
GWS Kurt Aylett 2012-2013 Essendon
GWS Jonathan O’Rourke 2013-2014 Hawthorn
GWS Kristian Jaksch 2013-2014 Carlton
GWS Caleb Marchbank 2015-2016 Carlton
GWS Jack Steele 2015-2016 St Kilda
GWS  Matthew Kennedy 2016-2017 Carlton
GWS Will Setterfield 2017-2018 Carlton
GWS Aiden Bonar 2018-2019 North Melbourne
GWS Jackson Hately 2019-2020 Adelaide
GWS Jye Caldwell 2019-2020 Essendon
GWS Tanner Bruhn??? 2021-2022 Geelong??

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