A PLAYER lodgement technicality from last year will ensure Carlton champion Kade Simpson is eligible for the 2021 Mid-Season Rookie Draft, but retired Geelong great Gary Ablett won't be.

Ablett has raised the prospect of a mid-season return with Geelong but the rules around the mid-season draft means another fairytale return will remain a fantasy. 


The champion former Cat and Sun said Geelong's recruiting of stars Jeremy Cameron, Isaac Smith and Shaun Higgins had prompted him to discuss a short-term contract with the club.

"I actually called (former teammate and Cats list management official) Andrew Mackie and said 'Mate, if you had let me know you were recruiting those guys I would have stayed around for another year'," Ablett told News Corp. 

"He had a bit of a laugh and I said 'if there is such a thing as a six or seven-game contract please let me know because I will be ready for the last three or four games of the season and finals football'."

However, rules state that a player who 'retired' from the AFL must have been off a list for more than 12 months to be selected in a Mid-Season Rookie Draft (MSRD) or the Pre-Season Supplemental Selection Period (SSP) - ruling out an Ablett return in 2021. 

Given Simpson was technically 'delisted' by the Blues, he will be free to be selected by a club in the June 2 draft, but it can't be by Carlton.


The 342-game Blue admitted last week he would put his hand up for the Mid-Season Rookie Draft and be open to joining a premiership contender.

The only way Simpson would have been permitted to re-join Carlton via the SSP or MSRD was if he had nominated for the NAB AFL Draft – something, like Ablett, he didn't do.

For comparison, Derek Eggmolesse-Smith, who was delisted by Richmond at the end of 2020, nominated for the draft and was overlooked before re-joining the Tigers in the SSP.

In the official list lodgement document issued by the AFL on November 25 last year, Ablett was one of several 'retired' players. Other notable names included Dayne Beams, Allen Christensen, Ben Reid, Travis Varcoe, Tom Bellchambers, Jack Steven, Harry Taylor, Paul Puopolo, Ricky Henderson, Brad Ebert, Justin Westhoff, Kade Kolodjashnij and Tory Dickson.

Champion Cat Gary Ablett leaves the field for the final time after the 2020 Toyota AFL Grand Final at the Gabba on October 24. Picture: Michael Willson

Richmond premiership defender Alex Rance was also 'retired' in last year's window and therefore technically won't be able to be selected in the upcoming draft.

Other notable 'delisted' players in the same category as Simpson include Matthew Kreuzer, Heath Shaw, Ben Stratton, Shane Savage and Lewis Jetta.

Hawthorn premiership backman James Frawley was also 'delisted', allowing a free passage for him to join St Kilda as a delisted free agent in the off-season.

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Clubs will be able to select a player in the Mid-Season Draft if they left a spot open following the Rookie Draft/SSP, have seen a player retired or have moved a long-term injured player to the inactive list.

Fremantle, Geelong, Greater Western Sydney, Richmond, West Coast and the Western Bulldogs don't currently have a list spot open for selection.

Gold Coast (four), St Kilda (four), Adelaide (three), Collingwood (two), Melbourne (two) and North Melbourne (two) currently have multiple openings.

Who can be drafted in the Mid-Season Rookie Draft and SSP?

Player Eligibility for the SSP and MSRD:
A player is eligible for the SSP or MSRD under either of the following:

  • A Player must have nominated for the most recent National Draft.
    Note: A Player who nominated for, and was not selected during the Draft and who has committed for a further year as a 19-year-old Northern or NGA Academy Player is eligible for selection by their Club during the SSP, however is available to all Clubs should they nominate for the MSRD.
  • Players must have previously been on the list of a Club (not required to nominate for the most recent Draft) refers to the following situations:
    • A Delisted Player
      Note: A Player delisted by a Club cannot be reselected in the SSP or MSRD by the same Club in the period immediately following their delisting unless they nominated for the most recent Draft
    • A Retired Player and/or a Player who has delisted themselves and has not been on an AFL list for one year or more. 

AFL Club Eligibility for the SSP and MSRD:
A Club is eligible to select a Rookie Player during the SSP or MSRD as follows:

  • If a Club has a Rookie list spot available 
  • If a Player suffers a year ending injury or retires the Player can be placed on the Inactive List and be replaced by an SSP or Mid-Season Draft Rookie Player.