CLUBS' wishes to have draft guns' initial standard contracts extended from two to three years are expected to be raised in the AFL's Collective Bargaining Agreement talks with the Players' Association.
Under current AFL rules players who are selected in the national NAB AFL Draft join the competition on standard mandated two-year contracts plus match payments.
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However, clubs have long lobbied for those to be longer to assist with retention and also to reduce the payments for second contracts, which have skyrocketed in recent years to be often above $400,000 for a player's third and fourth season in the League.
The AFL has started initial discussions with the AFL Players' Association about the next CBA with plans afoot to restructure it ahead of 2022, with the concept of a longer initial deal for top draftees to be discussed.
Under the plan pushed by clubs the three-year contract would be restricted to a certain part of the draft – only first-round picks, for instance – so that they can still use later picks to choose on less proven or more speculative prospects.
The AFLPA and player agents have been reluctant on the idea in the past through fears it would restrict the potential earning of a player who deserves a pay rise by the time his second season has finished and who has been underpaid in his first two seasons comparative to performance.
Carlton's Sam Walsh is into his third AFL season on a wage of approximately $500-600,000 and will likely win the Blues' best and fairest and is a Brownlow Medal contender while Gold Coast's Ben King, also in his third season, is one of the Suns’ best-paid players and has led the club’s goalkicking this season.
A mechanism allowing performing players to be rewarded by their third year would also be part of the talks if longer initial deals are passed through amongst any CBA changes.
Third and fourth-year contracts have become a sticking point for clubs who often pay extra to retain players and sometimes make extensions before an early draft pick has debuted based on their potential.
Currently the CBA signed for 2017-22 will apply for second-year players in 2022, meaning a player like Essendon's Nik Cox, who has played 20 games this season (above the 17+ threshold) after being a top-10 pick last year, will be on a base salary of $140,000 next year and $5,000 per match.
Any possible change to the initial contract would have to be decided before the nomination process opens for the draft. Rookie-listed players join clubs on one-year deals.
Also expected to be discussed as part of a range of CBA topics is the possibility of expanding the category B rookie list to entice clubs to bring in young ruckmen and taller prospects.
As raised by AFL.com.au in February, the 'ruck list' could see key position and ruckmen overlooked in the draft added by clubs as rookies based on their height and potential. Sitting outside the salary cap, it would implore clubs to develop talls (a criteria of a certain height would likely apply) rather than wait to grab them as mature trade targets down the line from rival clubs.
Clubs showed at the mid-season intake they were more prepared to take rucks as rookie picks, with seven ruckmen taken in June's rookie draft.