CHRISTMAS is just around the corner, so with that in mind, we'll stay in the spirit: the AFL needs to introduce its own game of 'Secret Santa' to its draft process. 

If you think this is a joke, you're only half-right.   

Secret Santa comes in many variations and forms, and will often change depending on workplace or family traditions. But the basics are that all members of a group buy a present for someone else in that group, under the proviso that the receiver does not know who is the giver. 

Often the rules will allow the presents to be swapped, but only once. It means if your cousin was bought a Sherrin as a present, and you had been given a selfie-stick, you could (sorry, you would) swap your present with theirs – however after it has been swapped once, nobody can steal it from you. 

Santa was at Gold Coast training back in 2015. Could it be time to bring him to the draft in 2020? Picture: AFL Photos

The next frontier of the national draft's evolution – which has been evident in the past two years with the advent (calendar?) of live trading of picks – is for clubs to be able to move players who have just been drafted to another club during the event. 

But only once, as is the case with an attractive present in Secret Santa.

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A prospect should only be able to be traded on one occasion, and not spend his whole draft experience concerned that the club which picked him is about to trade him elsewhere, and for that possibility to be uncapped. 

The AFL isn't in a rush to bring in this rule, and so far the club feedback has been that it doesn't feel quite right, or necessary, for the radical addition at this stage. 

But the League also took time to introduce live bidding to the draft in 2015 and then, three years later, the ability for clubs to trade selections during the draft, which has been an enormous success. 

That flexibility has allowed clubs to target the players they want by moving up and down the order through shrewd pick swaps and savvy deals. Imagine throwing players into the mix, too?

The optics of Matt Rowell wearing a Gold Coast jumper as the No.1 pick but 20 minutes later being traded to Sydney for pick No.5, two second-round picks and next year's future first-round selection are jarring for some. 

But clubs – like the AFL's answer to detractors of a proposed mid-season trade period – don't have to be involved if they do not wish. The Suns, in this example, can choose to hold onto Rowell and accept no offers.


The League looks internationally for some of its player movement ambitions, and draft-night trading is a regular sight in the NBA. It is not unusual for a club to select a player, only for him to be tied to a different NBA club by the end of the night.

Some list managers and recruiters believe the chances of a draft-then-trade rule being established in the AFL is linked to the ongoing debate around trading players without their consent.

That is likely to be a stronger discussion in the AFL's next collective bargaining agreement with the AFL Players' Association, but regardless, the discussion shouldn't be mutually exclusive.

Players being traded on draft night perhaps only minutes after they have been originally picked isn't a tear at the AFL's loyalty, nor a restraint of the player's trade. Draftees don't get to pick their destinations anyway, so another uncertain night (or two, depending on the player's quality) wouldn't make too much of a difference. 

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Then there is the opportunity for clubs to trade already listed players on draft night. The concept of a 'consent list' has been raised, whereby players could give their consent to be traded on draft night by their current club. 

For instance, in this off-season Bombers forward Jayden Laverde, who was contracted for another season, was open to being traded. Essendon was also open to offers, but none were forthcoming.

But if a consent list was in place during the draft, Laverde could have another chance at finding a new home, there ready to be traded by Essendon if the Bombers wanted to move up the draft board in a deal with another club. 

Essendon's Jayden Laverde would have been an ideal candidate for a draft night trade. Picture: AFL Photos

Being on the consent list would need club and player approval, but would be another avenue for players to find opportunities if no move was secured by other means. 

The AFL has recently asked clubs whether they would be keen on a post-draft mini trade period, having previously floated the mid-season and pre-season trade periods. Clubs can trade picks for weeks after the October trade period ends, and free agency rules continue to be tinkered to help more players move. 

Trading players who have just been drafted should be next on the agenda. Which leaves the next question: which list manager is ready to put on the Santa suit?

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