With the AFL constantly looking to evolve the game, the idea of a mid-season trade period has been talked about for a number of years.
In 2012, the AFL introduced free agency – a system that has worked successfully around the world in a variety of different sports. As expected, a new system will have its kinks: two years on, AFL clubs are starting to figure out how to use it to its best advantage.
However, Geelong coach Chris Scott slammed the free agency system on Monday. Despite his club being rather successful under the system, Scott said that it doesn’t help with the equalisation of the competition or with the level of loyalty that is currently eroding in the game.
It makes you wonder what his opinion of a mid-season trade period would be.
There are big upsides of a mid-season trade period, given it has the capacity greatly assist sides who have been troubled with injuries throughout the course of the season.
The AFL is largely reliant on the development and success of draft picks and – given free agency is still in its early stages – a trade period in May or June could seriously help teams repair a damaged list in a push for September action.
Mid-season trades could also help the careers of AFL-listed players currently playing for the reserves in the state competitions, giving them the opportunity to get game time elsewhere in a bid to further their careers and make a claim for themselves.
Given the trade window at the end of season is somewhat dull and boring, the spectacle of a mid-season trade period would also heighten interest for fans.
One further aspect of this would be the task at hand for list managers, along with managing the salary cap. Given a number of clubs push the boundaries of the cap each year, the mid-season trade period may prove to be very limited for the more inflexible sides.
Then there’s the potential to trade future draft picks, but maybe we’ll just leave it at trading players, for now.
Ideally, instead of splitting up the bye rounds, there is the potential for the AFL to make the trade period a two or three-day event across the weekend, where all teams would have their traditional mid-season bye.
However, there are some alarm bells ringing when discussing a potential trade period.
One of the main concerns for the introduction of the system as was raised during the thought process of free agency is loyalty. As Scott pointed out, club culture and loyalty is a large part of what makes our game so great.
Issues would also arise for a player being traded to an interstate side, given they would have to virtually move their life to another state and possibly be ready to play within a week. On top of this is the cost of moving, given not all players are on Lance Franklin-type contracts.
In relation to that, should a trade fail to transpire, the relationship between player and club could be severely damaged and cause further problems in the future, particularly in the case of young players. As a result, perhaps it would be best that players on their first contracts be excluded from trades of any kind during this time.
The concept of a mid-season trade period for the AFL certainly has the potential to transpire: however, there is no need for the AFL to rush into a decision.
To preserve equality in the game along with any conflict between clubs and players, they must find a suitable solution should they decide to introduce such a system.
With the AFL constantly looking abroad to improve our game, they must realise that not every aspect from international competitions will suit our unique game down under.