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Could a drastic rethink from the AFLPA stop the Gold Coast rot?

Clubs circling South Aussie pair, Blues hunting small forward Riley Beveridge and Cal Twomey answer all of the big trade and free agency questions live on Facebook

TURNING around struggling Gold Coast's fortunes may rest with the AFL Players' Association having a major rethink.

The AFLPA continues to lobby for players to reach free agency earlier than after eight seasons, yet refuses to consider relinquishing permission for trades.

As it stands, no footballer will be traded against their will, even though almost all players who demand a trade not only get their wish but often arrive at the club of their choice.

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Why this topic again becomes relevant is in the wake of Gold Coast chairman Tony Cochrane this week telling the Suns will request special access to this year's No.1 draft pick.

If Gold Coast is successful with this submission, and finishes on the bottom, it would score the top two draft selections, which will almost certainly be used on prodigies Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson.

Noah Anderson and Matt Rowell are tipped to go No.1 and No.2. Picture: AFL Photos

Adding intrigue to the scenario is last year's much-discussed Carlton-Adelaide trade that delivered the Crows the Blues' top pick in 2019, which projects to be No.2 overall at this stage.

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Cochrane said the Suns' pre-draft access to state league talent last year was no longer sufficient, after his club lost its 11th straight match on Saturday – a streak it also suffered through in 2018 – following a 3-1 start to the season.

"I don't think there would be any fair-minded person who would say that nine years at the bottom isn't time to give genuine assistance," Cochrane said.

Gold Coast has never played in the finals in its eight completed seasons and will miss out again this year despite the belief the Suns are making strides off and on the field.

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As a result, there is a reluctance for players to go there. At the very least, they aren't anywhere near the top of those 'destination club' lists.

Part of the idea behind the smorgasbord of picks the AFL granted both the Suns and Giants when they set about building their playing lists was they would trade some for established talent.

That didn't quite eventuate, but could League executives make it compulsory that any further pick assistance for Gold Coast be sent elsewhere for an experienced star?

Former captains Tom Lynch, Gary Ablett and Steven May have all departed the club in the past two seasons. Picture: AFL Photos

Some will argue that's what the Suns need rather than another elite kid who may or may not work out – and may or may not hang around.

The problem with that plan is convincing a player commensurate to, say, a top-10 draft pick agreeing to join the Suns.

That wouldn't be necessary if players didn't have the right to veto trades. 

The AFL and AFLPA want more player movement, while the clubs want more control with trading. There might be a compromise whereby all parties win.

Perhaps, a line could be drawn at players with wages north of $500,000 per season – who would have no problem affording a relocation – where only they could be traded without permission.

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Money is just one consideration in moving interstate, which can be a major disruption, but it's a start and there is wiggle room for more incentive.

The introduction of a 'no-trade' clause could add protection for footballers with the power to request such a thing be written into their contract.

In return, players would reach free agency at six years, or earlier if required, and in another win-win, national draftees would receive the security of an initial three-year deal instead of two.

Clubs would receive more from their investment and delay the type of mammoth payday that often prematurely arrives, but the change would also ease pressure on draftees to perform quickly.

Let's be honest, being an AFL player isn't anything like plumbing a toilet, despite AFLPA chief Paul Marsh once trying to compare the two.

Much like the draft system, footballers should be willing to go anywhere for the chance to compete in the AFL – and it's worth noting how this concept kicks in once a player's options dry up.

The game would be nothing without the players, but most clubs have been (and will be) around much longer than any individual.

That same, certain future isn't guaranteed for Gold Coast, and without some sort of "circuit breaker", as Cochrane refers to, something will eventually have to give.

Runaway Suns





Gary Ablett

2010 Uncontracted player selection



Josh Caddy

2010 National No.7



Charlie Dixon

2010 Local talent access selection


Port Adelaide

Tom Hickey

2010 Local talent access selection


St Kilda/West Coast

Tom Lynch*

2010 National No.11



Brandon Matera

2010 17-year-old access selection



Steven May

2010 Local talent access selection



Jaeger O'Meara

2011 Mini-draft No.1



Dion Prestia

2010 National No.9



Adam Saad

2014 Rookie No.25



Zac Smith

2010 Local talent access selection



*Tom Lynch left as a restricted free agent