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COMMENT: Is the draft becoming compromised?

North has first dibs on highly rated prospect Tarryn Thomas - AFL,Draft
North has first dibs on highly rated prospect Tarryn Thomas
If the League wants its draft night to attract more attention and be entertaining for fans, the growing amount of players who are already tied to clubs works in opposition to this

AS THE AFL continues to work on ways to enliven its draft night, it has an issue on its hands. Its product is becoming compromised.

As AFL.com.au reported last week, this year's draft pool looms as a big one for father-son prospects with more than 15 players eligible to join clubs under the rule.

A few may be early picks, however not all will end up on AFL lists. But add on a selection of northern Academy picks, plus a far greater proportion of top-end Next Generation Academy than ever before, and some recruiters believe there could be as many as 20 players who attract a bid during this year's drafts..

NGA Academies: What region does your club have?

If the League wants its draft night (potentially even two nights) to attract more attention and be entertaining for fans, the growing amount of players who are already tied to clubs works in opposition to this. 

Of course, the number of father-sons will change from year to year. Last season saw only two taken in the national draft – Patrick Naish (to Richmond at pick No.34) and Tyler Brown (to the Pies at No.50).

Draft's bounty of sons, brothers, cousins

But the likelihood is that clubs will generate more and more NGA prospects in their respective zones as extra time and resources are placed in that development area.

This year could be the first time a top-10 pick comes out of a club's NGA, with North Melbourne having access to Tasmanian talent Tarryn Thomas. Collingwood also has first call on Isaac Quaynor from its Academy zone and some scouts view him as a possible top-20 selection.

The revised bidding system that was introduced in 2015 for father-son and northern academy players also applies to the NGA prospects, and will keep clubs honest with the top picks. It also has a safeguard in place where the finishing ladder position has a direct influence on how many academy players a club can draft inside the top 20, with top-four clubs only able to take one each draft.

But later on, with their 20 per cent points discount, it is easy for clubs to match a bid without impacting the position of their leftover picks. And despite the foxing of clubs closer to the draft, the best prospects will always end up at their nominated homes.  

The Next Generation Academy is well intentioned. It was introduced by the League in a bid to develop more opportunities for players from multicultural and indigenous backgrounds. The AFL felt the best way to do it was by assigning regions of Australia to the 14 clubs outside of New South Wales and Queensland.

They had to incentivise it for clubs to full engage in the program, and granted the clubs first rights to players who come out of their NGA programs if they meet the required criteria in their 18th year. 

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The AFL will counter that the NGA is doing its job by producing more players out of markets it previously did not have great representation and that, instead of compromising the pool, it is actually growing the numbers of players up for grabs. 

But with that, it has also bred more predictability for a draft night that AFL boss Gillon McLachlan admitted last year the League hasn't quite perfected.

Lots of things are under consideration for the annual intake of players, including breaking the draft into two nights, while live trading of picks during the draft appears likely to come into effect this year.

But as the AFL considers all of its plans, including where to actually stage this year's draft, it has to also keep an eye on whether its programs are healthy for a draft system that is its central equalisation plank. 

AFL DRAFT VALUE INDEX

ROUND ONE   ROUND TWO ROUND THREE ROUND FOUR ROUND FIVE
Pick/Pts Pick/Pts Pick/Pts Pick/Pts Pick/Pts
1. 3000 19. 948 37. 483 55. 207 73. 9
2. 2517 20. 912 38. 465 56. 194 74. -
3. 2234 21. 878 39. 446 57. 182  
4. 2034 22. 845 40. 429 58. 170  
5. 1878 23. 815 41. 412 59. 158  
6. 1751 24. 785 42. 395 60. 146  
7. 1644 25. 756 43. 378 61. 135  
8. 1551 26. 729 44. 362 62. 123  
9. 1469 27. 703 45. 347 63. 112  
10. 1395 28. 677 46. 331 64. 101  
11. 1329 29. 653 47. 316 65. 90  
12. 1268 30. 629 48. 302 66. 80  
13. 1212 31. 606 49. 287 67. 69  
14. 1161 32. 584 50. 273 68. 59  
15. 1112 33. 563 51. 259 69. 49  
16. 1067 34. 542 52. 246 70. 39  
17. 1025 35. 522 53. 233 71. 29  
18. 985 36. 502 54. 220 72. 19