THE AFL needs a 'Rebuild Revitaliser'.
Struggling clubs who haven't played finals for a minimum of five consecutive seasons should be eligible to receive a start-of-second-round NAB AFL Draft selection, their version of a priority pick, to accelerate the process of a list rebuild.
AFL.com.au has this week put North Melbourne's chances of receiving a priority pick on the agenda. The Kangaroos have won just eight of their last 44 games and are undoubtedly heading towards a sixth straight season without finals.
Compared to Brisbane in 2016, Carlton in 2018 and Gold Coast in 2018 and 2019 – teams who have recently received AFL assistance based on dwindling performance – the club is well within its right to ask the question.
David Noble is in charge of the second-youngest list in the competition and, although the development of several players is promising, breaking a six-season finals streak still seems a considerable amount of time away.
So, North Melbourne should receive assistance. Instead of long-held measures that judge each club's eligibility to receive priority picks on a case-by-case basis, a League-wide threshold should be put in place.
Haven't made finals for five straight years? Here's what should happen. Pick No.19 should be issued to kickstart your chances of eventually breaking that drought. Do with it what you will – use it, trade it, bundle it to move higher up the order – it's yours to play with.
For example, in 2016 the Lions took their AFL assistance package – pick No.19 – and traded it to the Suns, alongside Pearce Hanley, for pick No.22 and a future first-round selection. They then drafted a young player in the 20s (Cedric Cox) and used the future pick to trade for an established player (Charlie Cameron). It has undoubtedly helped their rise.
THE BRISBANE METHOD How to turn a priority pick into a serious flag contender
Pick No.19 is valuable enough to fast-track a rebuild, given it is both a top-20 selection and a crucial trade asset thanks to its standing as the first pick on the second night of the draft, without being a certified sure-thing when it comes to inheriting a star player.
It is also not valuable enough to encourage tanking. Clubs with a legitimate shot of playing finals football for the first time in five seasons won't sabotage their chances to ensure they gain access to pick No.19.
The threshold of eligibility, five consecutive years without finals, also means the assistance package isn't something the AFL would be dishing out regularly. Had such measures been in place since 2000, it would have only been used 12 times in the last 21 years. Seven clubs wouldn't have received assistance at all so far.
Its relevance now is that it is taking sides longer to rebuild. Of the 12 times that clubs have missed finals for five straight seasons since 2000, a quarter of those streaks – Carlton's, Fremantle's, Gold Coast's and North Melbourne's – are current and ongoing.
Seven of those 12 streaks have extended to as long as eight or more years and three of 12 have gone beyond a decade or longer without finals. It could be four, if the Blues don't qualify for September football this season.
Those statistics paint a picture that, while the pick wouldn't be delivered to clubs regularly, the teams that do require the assistance desperately need it. Five-year finals droughts are rarely just that.
There would need to be minor factors ironed out. For example, if two clubs have missed finals for five straight years who receives pick No.19 and who gets pick No.20: the club who finished lower on the ladder, or the club with the longer finals drought? There is also a question of whether clubs would continue to receive the assistance package year-on-year, should their finals droughts stretch longer than five seasons.
But these shouldn't be roadblocks that stand in the way of teams that desperately need AFL support, not necessarily to return to the top but to return to being a competitive football team once again.
Look at how, after nine years without finals, the identical selection as a priority pick helped shape Brisbane into becoming a genuinely exciting football club once again. There is no reason others in near-exact situations shouldn't be supported in the same way.
FINALS DROUGHTS OF FIVE STRAIGHT YEARS SINCE 2000
Carlton: 2002-09, 2013-Current
Gold Coast: 2011-Current
North Melbourne: 2017-Current
Port Adelaide: 2008-12
St Kilda: 2012-19
Western Bulldogs: 2001-05