THE FATHER-son rule remains one element of football that leaves supporters a little misty-eyed.
Fans of Fitzroy don't have a team any more, but those who made the leap to the Brisbane Lions were able to enjoy the magnificence that was Jonathan Brown, son of Brian. Gary Ablett snr and jnr collectively kept Geelong fans coming through the turnstiles for nearly a quarter of a century, while two generations of Clokes – David and then Travis – have prowled the Collingwood forward line.
Yet for all the romance of the father-son rule, it remains an impediment to what many believe needs to become an imperative in the game – a pure and uncompromised draft.
Add to the mix the New South Wales and Queensland academies, designed in part to fast-track local talent, such as highly-rated Newcastle teenager Isaac Heeney to the Sydney Swans in one instance, and there remains considerable disquiet that the pathway to League football remains compromised.
In their interviews with AFL Media, most coaches indicated their support for the retention of the father-son rule as long as clubs are paying the 'market rate' for the privilege.
They hadn't quite got their heads around the proposed discount system for father-son and academy prospects, and as for the academies themselves, their points of view tended to reflect where they currently live and work.
Should we keep both the father-son rule and the NSW and Queensland talent academies, scrap one or scrap both?
Brad Scott (North Melbourne): I think they're both really important parts of the game. Having played in the northern states I know we have to be really diligent at developing the talent up there, but the system can't advantage one club over another. In the ideal world, the AFL would run the academies.
Paul Roos (Melbourne): It's a bit hard to lump them together. Father-son has to do with the history of the game and we have to decide whether we want to encourage it. It seems now that we half-want it but we're making it more difficult for clubs. We just have to decide whether we still want it.
Ross Lyon (Fremantle): Take the romance out of the father-son. What we're aiming for but still don't have, is an uncompromised national draft. I get the romance, but it goes against everything the draft is trying to bring in. So I'd get rid of it.
Nathan Buckley (Collingwood): A father-son academy would be great for clubs to be able to mind their father-son candidates, but the father-son rule itself has become far too complicated.
Ken Hinkley (Port Adelaide): They should be separated. The romantic in me says that if my son wants to play football, then he should play for my football club as long as there are rules in place so the club is getting a fair deal. I think we have done that. We should rate them at the time they're available and you give up a draft pick commensurate to that rating. The academies are different. If there's a prized player from your academy, then yes, you've done the work. But if he's worth pick one and you've only got pick 18, then that's not fair. There should be a fair price paid.
The Swans recruited academy graduate Isaac Heeney with pick 18 in last year's draft. Picture: AFL Media
Should all clubs have a development and recruiting zone?
Scott: It's really important to develop the code in non-traditional markets, but in the traditional markets, the talent pathway should take care of game development. The game as a whole should be funding game development, not the clubs.
Roos: Having lived in Sydney and now Melbourne, this is all a reaction to Kurt Tippett and Lance Franklin going to the Swans. Nobody knew who Isaac Heeney was until now, and nobody really cares, but this is just a response from some clubs.
Lyon: We'd love a West Australian academy, but what the Swans have done is invest in a program that will grow the game and fundamentally, that's right. What the cost is for the others and what they would give us is a separate issue.
Hinkley: Should we go back to the reserves and under 19s? No. Football is in a healthy state because of the changes that have been made.
Should the eligibility for father/son remain at 100 games?
Scott: 100 games is about right, although if it had been changed back to 50 a couple of years we could have drafted Josh Kelly!
Roos: Again, you first have to address the fundamental issue of whether we want to encourage it. Once you deal with that you then work through how many games to qualify.
Buckley: I agree with that. 100 games is a watermark for a father-son selection. You can't be open slather, ie. one game, but if you have a player who made a significant contribution to a club and at this time, when the game is so commercialized, then it would be great to have a rule like this. We're rapt to have Darcy Moore and of course, Travis Cloke at our club. Each club has to make a strategic decision as to whether a father-son player is worth the cost.
Hinkley: 100 is a fair number. That's close to seven years of good service to a football club, so I think that's right.