THE NATURAL flow-on from last week's NAB AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft was the push to introduce a mid-year trade window.
But before the AFL can get to that – and it has been on its radar for some time – there are two steps it should take to add to the growing-ever-more-flexible player movement landscape.
The first is the trading of mid-season rookie picks. It is the next evolution of the mid-season draft to allow clubs to be able to trade their end-of-year national draft selections to clubs to get into the early part of the action in the mid-year intake.
Take this as an example. Jacob Edwards was the standout of the mid-season pool this year and a club, such as Greater Western Sydney, armed with two first-round picks at the end of this season, could rate him as the best tall available in 2021.
If clubs could swap mid-season picks for end-of-year draft selections, it would allow the Giants in this case to approach North Melbourne, holding the No.1 choice at the mid-season draft, and offer their first-round pick tied to Collingwood (potentially a top-five pick in November) to get access to forward/ruck Edwards.
Under this scenario, it would give the Roos a stronger hand in the national draft – where they have more players and top-end talent to choose from – and give the Giants their wish to land Edwards.
The ability to trade mid-season picks is already a discussion point among clubs and would give them more chips to play with to bolster their lists mid-year either by targeting a readymade player or grabbing an overlooked young gun.
"I've got a few colleagues in the office here who would be pretty happy if we could do that," Adelaide recruiting manager Hamish Ogilvie told AFL.com.au moments after selecting Patrick Parnell with pick No.4 in the mid-season draft.
"I think it's worth some discussion. I don't think clubs would have put a lot of thought into that yet but I think we could all get into a room and have a discussion about that."
The other rule that should be considered is a rolling delisted free agency window. We're calling it '24/7 DFA', which would allow clubs to go out and sign up any delisted free agent at any stage of the year up until a round 20 cut-off.
Although it would take some players out of the mid-season pool (Matthew Parker was the only ex-AFL listed player to get a chance of the 22 picks last week), essentially it would allow clubs to fill holes and spots on the run with players who have been in and are now out of the AFL system. Untried and previously unlisted players would not be eligible.
Richmond, for instance, strongly considered ex-Saint and Magpie Nathan Freeman at the mid-season draft this year. And under 24/7 DFA, the Tigers should be able to sign Freeman tomorrow, next week or any time before a cut-off period if they lose a midfielder to a long-term injury and place them on the inactive list.
Or when Gold Coast co-captain Jarrod Witts went down with a knee reconstruction in April, the Suns shouldn't have had to wait two months to sign another ruckman and use stop-gaps in the meantime. They could have gone to Jackson Trengove, who was delisted by the Western Bulldogs at the end of last season, and picked him to hold the fort until their injury list subsided.
The art of building a list is clearly a competitive advantage in the AFL and so the 24/7 signing window, under this idea, would close a fortnight before the finals series to ensure that clubs can't top up their list with the most in-form delisted players in state leagues by warehousing reserves players in the finals with moderate injuries.
Delisted free agency windows currently sit purely in off-seasons, but by leaving them open clubs would be able to patch over the unfortunate luck of injuries. Plus, the players who get the call up as immediate replacements might fit the job description so well they remain on the list.