Ken Hinkley, Chris Scott, Craig McRae, Brad Scott and Sam Mitchell. Pictures: AFL Photos

THE AFL has delayed a decision on when it will introduce a mid-season trade period, but the League's appetite remains to bring in the landmark player movement window.

But there still remains plenty up in the air about how it could work.

Will there be restrictions on the players able to change clubs mid-season or will it be open slather? Could it be restricted only to players in a certain pay grade or if they have played a certain number of games in that season? Will clubs be able to trade players for players or need to use that season's picks or future picks? How does the AFL ensure there is no disadvantage for non-Victorian clubs in getting players to switch teams and states mid-year?

In recent weeks, the AFL has received all club feedback through its competitive balance survey, which saw clubs give their views on mid-season trading among a number of other questions on player movement and the talent pathway. 

Clubs came back with varying views on the need and desire for mid-season trading, with much planning and consultation to be undertaken on how it could feasibly work before it is introduced. The AFL has ruled it out for 2024 but it looms as a potential introduction next year. asked six senior coaches – Collingwood's Craig McRae, Geelong's Chris Scott, Carlton's Michael Voss, Essendon's Brad Scott, Port Adelaide's Ken Hinkley and Hawthorn's Sam Mitchell – about their thoughts on if mid-season trading should be established and how it should work, with different takes on how it could come into effect. 


"I'm a massive fan for this, I think the game will be better for it. I don't think there's any losers. I haven't thought through every detail or every discussion of what it could or won't be. I was misquoted halfway through last year when we had no rucks whether I was a fan of this. It wasn't about that we didn’t have any rucks, it was that I was a fan of this because I think it helps the game. There's teams at the bottom of the ladder that might have an asset that teams in the eight would see as an asset and they might pay overs for it so the teams down the bottom would get benefit. I don't know whether it's one or two picks in the trade period, I haven't given it that much thought but I do like the advancement of it. I'll leave it up to other minds to work out the details of it but you give up a first- or second-round pick for someone who might not be that value at the end of the year but for us it could be a great asset. Dan McStay comes to mind. If we're lucky enough to qualify and he's not available, is there an asset out there we could do with now? I think people will make choices around those things."



"You have to understand all the levers that need to be pulled for it and there's mechanics behind it that make that a difficult exercise. But principally I'd well and truly be in favour of it, and there's a heap of reasons why. It seems we've been hesitant where we've got a Victorian who is off to Perth the next day but I'd say if that player is playing VFL in Victoria, and there's an opportunity to be able to play AFL football, then he'll go to America. It won't matter. And we face that scenario sometimes when there are players who have high needs for another team and they could go fulfil those needs, whether that's on a short-term or long-term contract. I can't see why we can't make that happen. From a team perspective we try to do our best to have balance on our list and what it should look like. But we also can't cater to two injuries to the same role. So we might have a need as a team where that's the spot we need filled for this period of time and there's still opportunity there. It'd add intrigue, it'd add dialogue and opportunity for both the player and teams. I can't see why it can't work."

Michael Voss ahead of the preliminary final between Brisbane and Carlton at The Gabba on September 23, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos


"I probably take a step back. I think there's a couple of steps we need to address before that. The fluidity of player movement needs to open up a little bit. We quite often have players announce in contract they're leaving clubs and declaring the club they're going to and also players out of contract doing that. So they're not free agents but they're acting like free agents, whereas clubs don't have that flexibility. Quite often two clubs will come to an agreement on a player but the player will block that trade. I like the evolution of the game, but I still struggle a little bit with the cultural aspect of losing a player who's bought into your system, your culture and then playing for someone else in the same season."

Brad Scott is seen during Essendon's team photo day on February 13, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos


"Optimistically I think it can work. To me it would be an exciting part of the game and an exciting part of the season potentially. People will always sit there and be worried about 'Do the best teams get an opportunity to be better?' Well at that time you want the best teams potentially getting better for the finals anyhow. And then does that provide an opportunity for those teams not in finals calculations to improve their draft hand which ultimately will make them better? Simply, it looks like it should work really well. You've got to see it but either pull the lever or don't, I'd say, because if you don't we're not going to know. We're going to sit here and guess."

Ken Hinkley and Port Adelaide players before the semi-final clash against GWS at Adelaide Oval on September 16, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos


"I'm not an expert in this area and I haven't thought that we've needed it personally as a club in the last couple of years. But I imagine when you're in a situation where key players, in the same role, get injured and you're in your window of trying to absolutely maximise your chance for finals and the Grand Final, then I understand why it would be really helpful. I'll leave the better minds than mine to discuss that one."

Sam Mitchell at Hawthorn's photo day ahead of the 2024 AFL season. Picture: AFL Photos


“We have got a difference of opinion internally, and they are the discussions I find really interesting. I really rate our list management guys. Stephen Wells has been one of the best in the business and Andrew Mackie is a rising star in that space. Simon Murphy has a really interesting viewpoint. And even people who live in that space can’t quite explain to me how the contract situation would work. But I think in principle the AFL view is 'We like more player movement and we love anything that gets a team down the bottom closer to the top'. That’s the part that is interesting to me. I think they like the idea that a team up the top would be incentivised to pay over the odds in a trade. I think they like that. I dislike it. I think every season should stand on its own, if you’ve worked really hard to get yourself to second on the ladder and the team which is fourth trades away first round picks in the future to get a player, (and it) changes the season with five game to go, or eight games to go, whatever it is, I think you just have to ask: is that how you want it to work?”

Chris Scott on Geelong's photo day on February 7, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos