ONE OF the major talking points of the upcoming Continental Tyres AFL Trade Period will be Gold Coast's plan to part with its prized first pick - selection No.4 - in the upcoming AFL National Draft.
It will be a multi-faceted move that is set to have a ripple effect on several other clubs and is linked to the Suns' Academy, draft points and the race for the top young talent in the country.
To help demystify the finer points of this upcoming trade, here's a back-to-basics look at what's expected to happen and why.
What's the story?
With Gold Coast finishing the season in 15th spot, the Suns currently hold the No.4 pick in November's national draft. That pick is likely to move back a spot when compensation picks are allocated during the free agency period, but the Suns will nevertheless be in possession of a prized high pick at the draft. The interesting part is they will be actively trying to get rid of it before then.
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Why would Gold Coast give up such a good pick?
The first reason is Gold Coast's Academy program. The Suns and the three other clubs in the northern states – Sydney, Greater Western Sydney and Brisbane – have Academy programs that help develop the best young local players. In states where the rugby codes are king, the Academies are a proven weapon for the AFL in the battle to attract talented young athletes to the sport. And given these four clubs pour resources into these players through their Academies, they then get special access to them when they're old enough for the big time.
This year, there are three gun players from the Suns Academy who are ready for the AFL.
How does this work on draft night?
Players from the northern Academies are thrown into the draft pool with the rest of the players and all clubs are free to call their name when it's their turn to pick. The difference is when a rival club picks an Academy player, the club linked to that Academy can 'match' the bid.
For example, if West Coast was to use its No.1 pick this year to select a Gold Coast Academy player, the Suns can use their next available pick – which is currently No.4 – as part of a deal to get the player instead. West Coast's No.1 pick would then become the No.2 pick, the No.2 pick would become the No.3 pick and so on.
But the key part of this is the Suns only have to use their next available picks to 'match' West Coast's bid. There's no incentive for the Suns to use up their No.4 pick to get their Academy player when their picks later in the draft can help do the job instead.
And given the 17 other clubs would be willing to pay a good price to get their hands on the valuable No.4 pick, which the Suns do not need, it's in their interests to exchange it for something more valuable to them.
So the Suns should just get rid of all of their picks then?
Not quite, and this is the second reason for the Suns wanting to part with pick No.4. To 'match' a bid, a club is still required to give up something of value.
Are you going to talk about draft points now?
Yes. It's a complicated system but one that ensures some level of fairness as clubs can't just pick up talented Academy players for next to nothing.
The Draft Value Index sees every pick in the draft allocated a points value. Pick No.1 is worth 3000 points and it goes all the way down to pick 73, which is worth nine points (every pick after that is worth nothing).
Using this year's draft as an example, if West Coast was to select a Gold Coast Academy player with its No.1 pick (worth 3000 points), the Suns would need to give up the equivalent of 3000 points to match the bid.
Their pick No.4 is worth 2034 points, which isn't enough to get the deal done. But if they were to have, for example, picks 10, 20 and 25 – worth a cumulative 3063 points – that would allow them to match the bid.
Clubs can also get a discount of up to 20 per cent on the points required to match (depending on when in the draft a bid comes), which also needs to be factored in.
So the Suns need to get rid of pick No.4, which the other 17 clubs desperately want, and in return get a suite of other draft picks to ensure they have enough points.
So who is going to put forward the best offer?
This is where things will get interesting during the trade period. Every club knows the No.4 pick is on the table, so the Suns are essentially waiting to see what each club is willing to give up for it. It's a seller's market and the Suns are waiting for the highest bidder.
Melbourne has two picks inside the top 13 and four in the top 32, so they have plenty of draft capital to offer the Suns. The Western Bulldogs are another club with two first-round picks (10 and 17) and have already held talks with the Suns, while Sydney, Adelaide and Essendon have also expressed an interest in doing a deal.
Who are these Academy players? Are they any good?
They're very good. Key forward Jed Walter dominated the AFL U18 Championships this year and is rated as one of the best three players in the draft, while ruckman Ethan Read is considered a top-10 player and midfielder Jake Rogers is rated inside the top 15.
The Suns are expecting rival clubs to bid on these players early on draft night and have been stockpiling plenty of draft picks in order to match the bids. And parting with pick four will help them add even more points.
After a deal is done, who will get drafted with pick No.4?
The top-end talent at November's draft is very strong so the club that ends up doing a deal with the Suns and landing pick No.4 can get excited about who they'll bring in. Young Tasmanian midfielders Colby McKercher and Ryley Sanders look ready for the top level already, small forward Nick Watson is nicknamed 'The Wizard' for a reason while young talls Daniel Curtin and Nate Caddy have already generated plenty of buzz. Any one of these players would be worth trading up to pick No.4 for – and the Suns are waiting for the best offer.