As the Kurt Tippett saga dragged on into the umpteenth week, the revelations in today’s Age have now seen the situation descend into an utter farce. The accusation of ‘draft tampering’ that has been directed at Adelaide is a very poor way of describing what has taken place.
The Crows had an agreement with Tippett, outside his contract, to trade him to a Queensland club for a second-round pick if it was commercially beneficial to both parties. Now, condoning backroom deals which exist off the books is not on as far as the AFL is concerned.
We’re trying to run this league professionally, trying to not have the sort of legal entanglements that exist from the brokering of such deals. However, it’s not as black and white as that, as there is an ideological movement in the meat market which sees the conditions perfect for such skulduggery.
The initial question that comes to mind is what Kurt Tippett is actually worth. This is up for debate, with the standard ‘but they said he’s a hack, but now they want more’ line being pointed at Adelaide supporters by many people. This is a biased way to judge a player’s market value, as they are understandably bitter, for starters, so let’s remove the opinions of supporters for a minute.
Regardless of Kurt Tippett’s output during 2012, in which his form was impacted by this ongoing saga and growing resentment by being stuck at Adelaide, within reason, he’s a good key position player. This raises him above all draft prospects, who are unquantified and randomised elements, and has consistently proved he can play senior footballer, as not all who come in the draft can.
Proven key position forwards are always in high demand, adding an artificial inflation to their price. Adding to that, when a club is interested to fill a deficiency on their list (for example, the one knock on Sydney’s list is that there’s a lack of a consistent key forward presence in their structure), that ups Tippett’s price further.
A relative comparison is Melbourne acquiring Chris Dawes for pick 20 in the 2012 National Draft. Chris Dawes is not worth pick 20 on his current output and external factors, such as Collingwood’s star-studded midfield and delivery. However, Melbourne had no leverage in this situation, as the Demons are seeking to fill a hole in their list. As a result, they must pay up.
Hawthorn wanted Brian Lake to fill in their deficiency whilst in a premiership window. The Hawks paid up and got their man, and the Bulldogs got what they wanted in return; draft picks in a rebuilding phase.
In the interest of balance, the argument could be made that Adelaide lost significant ground in negotiations by publicly threatening to send him to the draft. By dismissing your intentions entirely to keep the player, he decreases in value.
There are many external and internal factors that lead to the rating of what a player is worth at trade time. Sometimes there are too many, which allow it to be hotly contested and up for debate.
In a draft, which is a randomised element that could net you a star, a dud, or something in between, is pick 23 and Jesse White, a quantity that has failed to show it at AFL level despite being 24 years of age, worth Kurt Tippett?
Theoretically, it does not. If the Swans wish to acquire their man and seek to fill the missing hole whilst in a premiership window, they must part with more than what they are currently offering.
This is the work of the environment being created in the ‘freer player movement’ age, where the AFL seeks to entice fans by hyping up a period that exists entirely behind closed doors, which almost seems to be a perfect melting pot for clubs to have ‘illegal’ contingency plans if a player wants to leave.
Without a shadow of a doubt, if top players were to leave clubs, many unofficial contingency plans would exist in boardrooms around the country. Clubs now know that they need to protect their own interests if a player isn’t up to the cause.
If you create an environment that allows players to effectively judge what they’re worth, rather than clubs and players working together, a volatile system is created.
Essentially, now we have a catch 22 situation for clubs. It’s either accept getting unders for what a player is and allow being held to ransom, or threatening to de-register the player, which has player agents concerned about letting their product near that club in future. The balance between clubs and players both determining their worth has been thrown out in favour of the player’s welfare; this is how we get to where we are.
Expect similar instances in the coming years of the Gordon Gekko or “Greed is good” era of player movement. However, just like Wall Street, such a movement will learn down the line that it got too far ahead of itself in its lust for gold.