THE AFL recently unveiled its new bidding system for father-son and northern academy players.
It is a complex and sophisticated system where each pick has been assigned a points value, and it takes some working out.
Below is your go-to guide for the new process which will begin to make more sense as it's seen in practice.
Over the next few months, as the draft order becomes clearer, we'll keep you across all the key points, so that by draft night you'll be on top of all the possible options your club has to secure the best talent.
1. Why are academies and father-sons grouped together under the one system?
The father-sons and academy prospects have been grouped together under the same bidding system since 2009, when the northern academies were introduced. They were graded under the same bidding system that had been implemented two years earlier for father-sons in an attempt to equalise the process. The change of bidding system, which will be set for this year's NAB AFL Draft process, has been done to add a 'fair value' to every selection. The last process had its holes, and this one attempts to fix them. The AFL weighed up all the feedback about the level of discounts afforded to academy and father-son prospects and in the end felt the right move was to have both at the same number (20 per cent). They fall under the same system because the League recognises the value of the academies and the tradition associated with the father-son rule.
2. Why doesn't the AFL run the academies itself and limit northern clubs to one player each a season?
This is a wider issue, and a debate that harks back to 2009. When the academies started there was a discussion about whether the AFL should run them itself and develop talent, or leave them in the hands of the clubs. Back then the statistics showed there was a worrying lack of AFL players being drafted out of Queensland and New South Wales, with a problem being NRL clubs could sign children early in their teens and take them away from the code. The NRL at the time was promoting the fact that young talent could join a club so early but also, if the player was good enough he could stay and play for his local team. That's in contrast to the AFL draft system, where you can end up anywhere. The AFL thought a link to clubs would be the best option to set it up. As for one per year, that has been raised by clubs but it would be unlucky if the Brisbane Lions, for instance, had no academy prospects for three years and then had two really good ones in one season and could only take one of them.
3. Since draft picks will move down the order with the new system when a club matches a bid, do other clubs' impacted picks retain their original or new points value?
Under the new system, a matched bid will see the matching club's pick change to where the bid was made. For instance, where Melbourne bid for Isaac Heeney last year with pick two and the Sydney Swans matched it with pick 18, the Swans selected Heeney at No.18 (which was not reflective of his standing). Now, the Swans' pick 18 will slide up to pick two, where they will pick Heeney. Melbourne's pick two will become pick three and they will read out the next player on their list. Because the draft order is fluid, all the other picks will also change, meaning their original points value will also change throughout the draft. This might irritate some recruiters, who will head into draft night balancing their total points and how they can match a bid if it comes. But that is part of the new system: it will throw up a few surprises.
4. Is there a 'maximum points debt' a club can carry from year to year? Could a club permanently live in deficit points?
There's no maximum deficit, and clubs can go into deficit as much as they want. They have to pay back the points debt the next year. That theoretically could mean they lose all of their picks the next year and have them all pushed to the end of the draft. If they still haven't paid all of their points back then, and remain owing points, they will not be allowed to participate in the next draft's bidding system. That means they couldn't place a bid, and couldn't match a bid if they had a father-son or academy player tied to their club. Could they trade their way out of deficit by bringing in picks and then be allowed to participate in the bidding the following year? That's still to be determined.
5. Is it true you can pick up a player later in the draft and you don't need to give up a pick but just move a few spots down the order?
In short, yes. The system sees a 20 per cent discount applied for bids in the first round and then the discount will be fixed at 197 points (the discount for pick 18). This means that fair value is paid in the early rounds of the draft, and that the listing of father-son and academy players is made easier later in the piece. After pick 56, a nominating club needs to only use its last pick to draft the player. It means drafting some lower ranked and less proven academy players and father-sons will actually be cheaper than it was in previous years. For instance, if a bid comes for Carlton father-son prospect Jack Silvagni at No.46, then the Blues will owe 134 points to match the bid after the 197-point discount is factored in. Let's say Carlton, in this example, holds pick 50 (worth 273 points). They choose to match the bid for Silvagni and still have 139 points left, meaning their pick 50 slides down to pick No.61 (which is worth 135 points, closest to the Blues' leftover 139). It means in essence the Blues would get Silvagni at pick 46 and claim pick 61 in exchange for pick 50.
6. How does it work when picks are moved to the back of the draft? What order will they be in?
The picks which slide to the back of the draft remain in reverse ladder order. For instance, in the case of the Swans and Greater Western Sydney this year, they are likely to match bids on top-five prospects Callum Mills and Jacob Hopper, which will see their mid-ranked draft picks pushed to the end of the draft. If Mills is bid on first, say at pick No.3, then the Swans' first three selections might be pushed to the end of the draft (where they can still be used to pick players) to pay for the highly-touted Mills. If GWS then do the same for Hopper, their picks might go back there too. In that case, the first pick at the end of the draft will go to the lowest ranked side, and move up in ascending order. Clubs don't take the picks at the back of the draft in clumps, or depending on which bid came first. It is purely related to ladder spots.
7. Do clubs have to match with their earliest pick or can they cobble together later picks?
The process is set so clubs have to always use their next pick to match a bid, wherever that next pick is. So the answer is they have to match a bid with their earliest pick, and they can't try to beat the system by getting in a few second-round picks to meet the required amount of points, but still hold onto their first-round selection. It would be a clever way to get around things, particularly if you knew you had access to a top-rung player and the draft depth was weak, but the AFL knew that would be a rip-off and closed the possible loophole.
8. Could a team deliberately trade out their high picks for players and then match with multiple later round picks?
Yes. We'll use this example: let's say the Giants get to the end of the season and they know they have access to Hopper, a tough, competitive midfielder. They want to boost their stocks in defence, so trade their first and second picks to Essendon in exchange for Jake Carlisle. That means GWS's first pick comes in the third round, with which they could start to match an early bid for Hopper. Of course, given the bid for the midfielder is likely to come in the first handful of selections, the Giants would owe plenty of points and be in debt into the 2016 draft. But they can choose to do it this way. Clubs can do whatever they want prior to draft day, but the matching process will stay the same: the AFL will start at its first pick, then move on to its next, and then the next and on it goes.
9. Can you bid for multiple players or bid only once?
Yes, you can bid for multiple players. Nothing has changed on this front. Last year the Demons bid pick No.2 for Heeney. The Swans matched it, and then the Demons could have placed bids on Darcy Moore, Jack Steele, Zaine Cordy or anyone else. The same will apply this year. If Gold Coast bids the No.2 pick on Mills, and the Swans match it, the Suns will then hold pick three. They can bid it on Hopper, and the Giants will match, and then the Suns hold pick four. They can keep going all the way through by bidding on nominated players, or look to other draftable options.
10. Is this it? Could there be more changes?
As well as making the bidding system fairer, the new way also offers the League an opportunity down the track to tweak things more simply. In two years they might decide to increase one discount and lower another, or the draft points index could be altered. The League has already said it is considering changing the father-son eligibility from 100 games to lower to compensate for the northern academy players coming through. Is there room beyond that to make sure sons of club legends always head to the same club? Maybe if a player gets to 250 games with a club his son is exempt from the new bidding system and falls under the previous system. That's just a thought. There is still some detail to be confirmed for the new system, and it seems more likely than not to lead to the introduction of trading future picks.