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Jury still out

Ashley Browne  October 26, 2012 6:15 PM

Trade-comment316a.jpg

The jury is still out on the revamped player exchange period


ON THE surface, the revamped AFL player exchange mechanisms appeared to have worked.
 
The newly-minted Gillette AFL Free Agency Period, which started just two days after the Grand Final and ended a week ago, resulted in 10 players changing clubs after having served the requisite number of years with their existing clubs.

Trade tracker: The final list of who went where
 
The 18-day trade period, which ended on Friday afternoon, sent another 29 players from 2012 primary and rookie lists, or who had been tied to Greater Western Sydney as part of that club's establishment rules, to new clubs.
 
Until this year, there was no free agency in the AFL, while the trade period lasted a little more than a week. Player trading in the two years before this was complicated slightly by the presence of players who could be pre-listed by the Gold Coast and the Giants, then traded other clubs in exchange for draft picks.
 
So the best comparison between this year's trade period and those of years past might be with 2009 and earlier - before the creation of the Suns and Giants. In 2006, just eight players changed clubs, while in 2008, that figure was just six.
 
On that basis, the 2012 figure would suggest, the revamped, month-long player movement window was an unqualified success.
 
Certainly, both the League and the AFL Players Association were pleased with how it panned out.
 
"The AFL has been pleased with the operation of our first-ever Free Agency period," said AFL media manager Patrick Keane.
 
"The AFL, in consultation with the AFLPA, has been extremely keen to ensure that our player rules both allow opportunities for players to develop their careers, as well as the best chances for clubs to assess talent and work to improve their lists and future prospects."
 
"From an overall perspective we thought free agency and trade period was a huge success given the amount of players that were given the opportunity to further or regenerate their career," added AFLPA player relations general manager Ian Prendergast.
 
However once the self-congratulation abates, there will be a significant review of the entire player movement period.
 
What the League is likely to discover is near unanimous opinion from within the ranks of the player managers and clubs that the four-week window might be just that bit too long.
 
"Free agency should have been wrapped up a week early and then trade week would finish a week early," said one leading player manager.

"Given this is the first year this was the right length, but without going and changing too much in the future, just bring things forward by a week."
 
Added another: "I can't see any reason why they can't work in together. I know they're separate entities but at the end of the day, they're quite similar as well. Clubs do their homework and they know who's available."
 
These are widely held views among player managers, with most arguing that the wheeling and dealing could be wrapped up over a shorter time frame.
 
Even with 15 working days at their disposal there were clubs leaving Etihad Stadium on Friday afternoon claiming they needed just a bit more time to get things done.
 
Truth is, no matter how short or otherwise the trade period, deals will always get left on the table. The consensus among club personnel milling about on Friday was also that the same amount of business could still get done in fewer days.

"You can act more decisively when time is more urgent," said one veteran list manager.
 
To their end, the League and the players association are happy to talk about the timing.

Keane said the League's early feedback was that clubs could make "considered decisions around their list management or playing future" while Prendergast promised to "sit down and review it in its totality with our players and player agents before we discuss what if any changes are required."
 
Now that the free agency and trade periods are done, the obvious temptation is to seek out the winners and losers. It's an exercise that in some ways, should kept for another 12 months until we can assess the form and contribution of the traded players at their new clubs as well as the promise of the draftees, but some early judgments can be made.
 
Essendon gets a big tick for landing the biggest free agent signing of all, St Kilda's Brendon Goddard. At his best, he becomes Essendon's second most important player.
 
Collingwood and Geelong have also used the last four weeks wisely. Both injected experienced players into their clubs, to therefore remain in premiership contention, while at the same time preserving their draft picks. In the case of the Pies, with picks 18, 19 and 21 in their keeping, they will simultaneously contend and replenish.
 
West Coast did well, bringing Sharrod Wellingham, Jamie Cripps and Cale Morton back to Western Australia. Only Wellingham shapes up as a best 22 player at this stage but this time last year, it is doubtful even Josh Hill, as he returned home to Perth after an underwhelming stint with the Western Bulldogs, would have pictured himself as a 22-game, 36-goal forward for the Eagles.
 
Irrespective of the length of the player exchange period, the talking points it offers will keep football fans occupied over summer.

Will Brian Lake be the missing piece in the Hawthorn premiership puzzle? Will Melbourne's apparent scattergun approach translate to more wins?

Carlton did next to nothing. Has Mick Malthouse overrated the strength of his list? Can the Lions squeeze Ben Hudson, Matthew Leuenberger and Stefan Martin into the one side?
 
So there is much to consider and much to digest. And we haven't even mentioned Kurt Tippett.
 
 You can follow AFL Media senior writer Ashley Browne on Twitter @afl_hashbrowne.