LONGER initial contracts for draft guns will not only assist with interstate player retention, but ease the pressure on bulging salary caps, according to Brisbane CEO Greg Swann.
As reported by AFL.com.au, the AFL is expected to raise the prospect of prominent draftees signing three-year contracts as opposed to the current two seasons when it meets to thrash out the next Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Players' Association.
Clubs have long pushed for top players to be handed extended deals when entering the AFL given the spike in contract demands when a player approaches their third year.
In recent years, some clubs have been forced to re-sign top picks for more than $400,000 per season in order to retain their services for their third season (and beyond) with many players still largely unproven at the level.
"We've put in submissions before about three-year contracts for players in the first-round so if it was to head this way, we're supportive," Swann told AFL.com.au.
"There's 60 per cent of the (draft) pool coming from Victoria so any interstate club at some stage will pick a Victorian and it would give you better protection, better opportunity to assimilate the player into your club and hopefully get them to stay.
"There's also the salary cap piece because if they're (signing) two years from interstate, you normally end up paying a premium for them to extend.
"Every club would like to roll them (top draftees) out for three and four years when you first get them, and you see that happening a lot but you're at the whim of the managers there that they can ask for a bit of a premium for them to stay.
"Whereas if you've got the three years locked in at a reasonable sum then that negotiating doesn't start to happen until after the third year then everyone's got a better gauge of how the player's going and where he sits so that's probably fairer for all of us."
Under the proposal set to be raised in coming weeks, a mechanism allowing gun players to be rewarded for their third year based on performance across their first two seasons would be discussed to ensure they're not underpaid.
For example, 2018 draftees Sam Walsh (Carlton), Max (St Kilda) and Ben King (Gold Coast), Bailey Smith (Western Bulldogs) and Zak Butters (Port Adelaide) are among their club's most important players in 2021 and would carry more value than many in their fellow draft class.
Under the current CBA for 2022, top-20 picks who play more than 17 games in their first season are paid a base salary of $140,000 plus $5000 per match in their second season. They also receive a tiered bonus of up $12,000 if they play more than 15 games in their second campaign.
Swann added that stipulating a third year to the contracts of top draftees would also provide greater certainty after the past two underage seasons, particularly in Victoria, have been impacted by COVID-19.
"It's really difficult for recruiters to get a gauge on some of these kids so a three-year contract would allow you to at least bring them up to speed in their first year and in the next two be cementing their spot," Swann said.
"Because of the lack of games and the lack of development, I think they're going to be a little bit further behind draftees have been the last few years."
Brisbane famously lost guns including Elliot Yeo (West Coast) and Sam Docherty (Carlton) after opting to return home after their second seasons.
In recent times the Lions have had better success in retaining first-round draftees from interstate including Cam Rayner, Hugh McCluggage, Zac Bailey, Brandon Starcevich and Jarrod Berry.