GIVEN the unstoppable power of Melbourne's final 45 minutes of the 2021 season, it probably wouldn't have mattered had its premiership rivals been able to recruit star players from opposition clubs half-way through the season.

But, it certainly wouldn’t have hurt the Western Bulldogs, the losing Grand Finalists, to have had scope to add to their obvious problems in the backline and ruck for the latter part of the year. Robbie Tarrant might have appealed, so too, say, a Jon Ceglar, two players who found new homes at the end of 2021.


Had a Mid-Season Trade Period been part of the AFL system in 2021, Port Adelaide might have attempted to bolster its midfield before it was blown away in that department in a preliminary final. That Jordan Dawson had already made his mind to return to South Australia, he would've been a very nice in-season addition.

Jordan Dawson joined Adelaide from Sydney. Picture:

Geelong's chances would likely have been assisted if it had been able to add options in the ruck and forward line. It could have had yet another crack at Todd Goldstein.

GWS might have even made it through to another preliminary final, and not fallen in week two, if it had the option of trading in a quality forward. The possibilities around Rory Lobb, which ultimately amounted to nothing in the Continental Tyres AFL Trade Period, may have opened up more meaningfully.

24/7 DFA Two steps to make mid-season player movement BIGGER

Brisbane, forced to cover for injured forwards Cam Rayner and Eric Hipwood, would have surely contemplated bolstering that area of operations had there been in-season access to players from other clubs.

Cam Rayner is helped from the field after injuring his knee in the AAMI Community Series clash between Gold Coast and Brisbane at Metricon Stadium on March 8, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

A mid-season draft, restricted to talent outside the AFL system, was re-introduced in 2019, having been removed from operations in 1993. It is now time to introduce a Mid-Season Trade Period, involving AFL-listed players.

The concept was being given detailed consideration by former AFL football operations boss Steve Hocking, but when COVID-19 smashed the game at the start of 2020, like a lot of football initiatives, it went from front of mind to distant back.

Two seasons on, and with the industry only now being able to hope that the AFL world may soon return to a version of pre-COVID-19 normality, the matter will again be analysed by Hocking's replacements Brad Scott and Laura Kane.

Compared with many other major sports, avenues for club-to-club player movement in the AFL are highly restrictive. Post the Grand Final each season, a small, less-than-two-week window officially opens for free agents and others to be transferred, and that's it.

The NFL is about to enter Week 10 of its current season, and one of the biggest names in that sport, Odell Beckham jnr, is still free to find a new club, with his stint at Cleveland ending a fortnight ago. Von Miller, equally huge in the NFL, two weeks ago was traded out of the Denver Broncos to the LA Rams, who in the history of world sport may now have the title of being "the most in" on a championship tilt. In late October, tight end Zach Ertz, an all-time great for Philadelphia who scored the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl in 2017, scored a touchdown for the Eagles in Week Six, and then a touchdown for Arizona Cardinals in Week Seven.


In the NBA, players too can be traded in-season, with Philadelphia 76ers currently in several minds as to how to off-load their troubled Australian talent Ben Simmons.

There are multiple transfer windows in the English Premier League, lasting multiple weeks.

Situations can change dramatically and quickly in professional sport. Injuries can hit hard. Form can be lost. Relationships within clubs can fracture. A coach's opinion of a player can change in a heartbeat, not always favourably. A young player, out of nowhere, can propel him or herself into the starting line-up at the expense of a former star. Players get disgruntled with coaches and teammates. Sometimes, a situation can develop where a team ends up with too many of the same type of player. Likewise, other outfits don't have anywhere near enough of the same type of player.


Every listed player has a currency, and trading in-season could suit all clubs, not only the powerful ones. Teams which have started a season well could get immediately better with a shrewd trade. Teams which have started poorly could seek to improve with a trade, or seek to better their national draft selections in trading players out.

In every season, there are multiple clubs already planning to accumulate enough national draft points in order to secure a father-son or academy player at the next NAB AFL Draft. Those clubs could use a mid-season trade to facilitate such projects.

As is the case with the already designated Trade Period, picks in future drafts could also be used. Yes, there would be salary cap issues to negotiate, but nothing that couldn't be worked through.

While the conservatism which is always at play in AFL clubland will no doubt be a loud voice in all debates about an in-season trade window, it should not be allowed to naturally rule on the outcome. It is time this conversation is properly thrashed out.


Join the team for the most comprehensive NAB AFL Draft coverage