THE DRAFT will have an extra dimension this year after the AFL revealed its new father-son and northern academy players bidding system.
Designed to ensure clubs pay closer to market value for leading draftees, the new bidding system underwent several tweaks after the AFL proposed it to clubs in January.
The League executive put it forward to the Commission last month and it has been passed, which was confirmed on Thursday.
Under the reformed bidding system – which was developed throughout last year – each draft selection is allocated a points value on a sliding scale.
Clubs nominating a player as a father-son or academy draftee will be forced to use their existing draft selections to match the points value of the pick used by the club bidding for the player.
The AFL has settled on a maximum discount of 20 per cent for academy and father-son players in the first round. After that, the discount will be fixed at 197 points - the discount for pick 18.
The AFL is hopeful of having the bidding as a live element of draft night, but only if the required technology is ready for clubs to use. Statistics company Champion Data is developing an application to simplify the process for clubs and fans on the night.
If that program is not operational, a bidding meeting is still likely to be held much closer to the draft – possibly the week before or even the night before the full draft is staged and after the completion of the trade and free agency periods.
It has previously been held on the opening morning of trade period, almost eight weeks before the draft.
Club feedback to the League's initial proposal was strong that the focus should be on making things equal for top-end talent, but to make it easier to attain later picks.
If a player is bid on after pick 56, then the nominating club need only use its last pick in the draft to list the player.
The discount was initially proposed to be 15 per cent discount for father-son players and 25 per cent for academy prospects, but club feedback saw the discount set at 20 per cent for both categories in their recommendation to the Commission.
Last year, Melbourne bid pick two for Isaac Heeney, which under the new system is worth 2517 points. After the 20 per cent discount, the Swans would have needed 2013 points to match the bid and move up to pick No.2.
To do that they would have used the 985 points assigned to pick 18, and the remaining 1028 points subtracted from their remaining picks.
In essence, they would have traded picks 18, 37, 38 and 57 for Heeney (at pick two) and pick 64, where their original pick 57 slid back to.
Picks 18, 37 and 38 would remain live but would be pushed to the end of the draft. The draft order would be updated.
The sophisticated system replaces the old process under which a club could bid on a nominated player and the club would only have to match the bid with its next pick.
The change is perhaps the biggest overhaul to the NAB AFL Draft since the annual player selection meeting was established, and is set to add an exciting element to the process.
It may see recruiters having to decide during the draft whether they will match another club's bid for a father-son or academy player, with the chance that some early bids will see clubs need to use multiple draft selections to claim the nominated player.
Joe Daniher was taken at No.10 while rated as perhaps the best player in the draft. Picture: AFL Media
If a club has two or more nominated players it could see it go into a 'points deficit' in the following year's draft to secure them.
There have been complaints from some club personnel that the new bidding system is too complicated.
But many believe the system will iron out cases where clubs are able to recruit highly ranked players deep into the first round, like the Swans were able to do last year by selecting Heeney at No.18 despite him being a top-three talent.
In 2012, under the former system, Essendon drafted father-son Joe Daniher with pick 10. Daniher would have challenged Lachie Whitfield for the No.1 spot that year in an open pool.
Having the new process as part of the draft or very close to it will help clubs know which other players will be available against their nominated players.
The new points-based sliding scale was devised by an internal research team at the AFL, based on data relating to average player salaries of each pick from the year 2000 onwards.
Under the system, pick No.1 will be worth 3000 points, pick No.2 worth 2517, pick No.3 worth 2234 points and so on. The system has been road-tested by a working party made up of club list managers from around the competition.
The Swans stand as the club likely to be most affected by the changes, with star academy midfielder Callum Mills all but already a Swans player and likely to attract a very early bid.
The Swans also have first rights over father-son Josh Dunkley, and the 20 per cent discount for both players will help them be able to secure both players.
However, Dunkley, who plays for the Gippsland Power in country Victoria, is considering his options and is no certainty to nominate as a future Swan. He will make his decision later in the year and could enter the open draft.
Jacob Hopper, from Leeton in New South Wales, and Wagga Wagga teenager Matthew Kennedy are aligned with Greater Western Sydney's academy, while Ben Keays and Eric Hipwood have shown promising signs as Brisbane Lions academy prospects.
Bailey Rice (eligible to join St Kilda and Carlton), Jack Silvagni (Carlton), Jake Lovett (Melbourne), Tom Wallis (Essendon) and Jordan Matera (West Coast) are some father-son candidates.