CLUBS are pushing Champion Data to get access to match vision of every under-18s and state league trial game this year in a bid to analyse 2020 draft prospects in the wake of the coronavirus saga.
State leagues and talent programs were put on hold until at least May 31 by the AFL on Monday, meaning recruiters across the competition will be without games to cover on a weekly basis.
However, clubs contacted by AFL.com.au on Tuesday have already set plans for at least the next 10 weeks to ensure they are not left behind as uncertainty grips the competition.
Sourcing vision from all practice games via the league's statistics partner is deemed a priority, and although clubs use a range of different databases, scouts will be delving into matches involving this year's draft prospects from their under-16s carnival last year, their performances last season as bottom-agers and the early part of this pre-season, to form their assessments.
Face-to-face interviews and home visits are an important facet of AFL recruiting but with those likely put on hold, clubs will begin to speak with draft hopefuls via online methods such as Zoom and Skype, or just over the phone.
However, most clubs used the state talent hub training camps over summer to interview players, so have already spoken to up to 150 of the country's brightest players at least in 10-15 minute chats.
Some clubs sensed the impending closure of the under-18 competitions and last week cancelled all of their flights last week up until mid-year. Recruiters often lodge close to 100 flights per season travelling around the country watching the next generation emerge.
Plenty can still be done remotely, such as the players' information sheets and psychology testing, while background interviews, which clubs undertake with school teachers, teammates, coaches and talent managers, will be brought forward for many clubs to fill in the next period. Diving deeper into GPS data from previous seasons is also on the to-do list.
The majority clubs of clubs also deploy one of their scouts as a 'futures' expert, with their role to focus on upcoming draft classes instead of the current year's group. That person is set to become an extra important resource if more games are cancelled across this season.
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Without fresh games to study, list management teams will play a key role in the recruitment of possible top-up players if the AFL's concept of a mini-draft or sign-up system takes shape.
One leading recruiter said the lack of games to follow may not have as much impact on the very early selections, given many of them already have performances on the board, but on the next tier.
"If we see them half as many times as we usually would, that's going to make a big difference at the end of the year," he said.
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Some recruiters will use the unprecedented gap in the season to dig deeper into analytics from previous drafts and identify trends they wouldn't otherwise had have the time to discover.
There is concern around viability of different roles within recruiting departments as clubs look to slash costs due to the crippling effects of COVID-19.
But clubs feel that if the under-18 national carnival, originally slated to take place over June, can be run at some stage throughout this season then the national draft can still be held in its normal format.
"The most important thing is the under-18 championships. They need to be preserved somehow, even if they're pushed back or condensed or played at one place over a shorter amount of time," one recruiter said.
"If they can go ahead then the draft will still be fine, as we can rank them against each other at that point and be able to judge them accordingly."
That, like so much in the game, remains up in the air.