Illustration: Jamie Brown
The AFL has arranged an official draft meeting in September for a reality television program in which the winner is guaranteed a spot on a club's rookie list.
The meeting will be the final episode, shown live, for the Foxtel program The Recruit, in which 50 players are progressively reduced to a final three, with the winner guaranteed a position on a club list as a ''category B'' rookie – the same status as an international player or one recruited from another sport, like ex-steeplechaser Mark Blicavs of Geelong.
The draft is expected to be held on the Wednesday of preliminary final week, with the AFL Commission recently giving approval for the winner to be recruited prior to the national draft through the special meeting, which all clubs are supposed to attend.
The show will be hosted by former Brisbane champion and coach Michael Voss. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
The AFL would not confirm, however, that at least one club had given an undertaking to select the winner if there were no other takers. It said it would become apparent during the program how the draft meeting would work.
Sources familiar with the reality show said all 18 clubs would have an opportunity to draft the winner, and some clubs believe there will be a form of bidding system.
The show has been completed, bar the final live episode, with the contestants narrowed to just three.
Under the rules for The Recruit – which is produced by Collingwood president Eddie McGuire's company, McGuire Media – players in the pool have to fit three main criteria: that they are at least 20 years old; that they have not been playing in a senior state league such as the VFL, the SANFL or the WAFL in the past two years; and that they have never been on an AFL club's list.
The show, which consists of 10 episodes and involves the players playing scratch matches, is hosted by former Brisbane champion and coach Michael Voss.
Port Adelaide's highly regarded fitness boss Darren Burgess, ex-Netball Victoria boss Leigh Russell, former Hawthorn player Ben Dixon and ex-Sydney player Ryan Fitzgerald are regular figures on the program – to be screened on entertainment channel Fox 8, the same channel that has Australia's Next Top Model, rather than Fox Footy.
Ex-North Melbourne premiership player and veteran AFL assistant coach Anthony Rock played a role in assessing the players.
The AFL's head of legal Andrew Dillon confirmed the draft would be held on the Wednesday of preliminary final week, with the details ''to be worked out ... it's a proper AFL, properly constituted draft".
Dillon confirmed the winner was guaranteed a spot on an AFL club's rookie list, but would not be drawn on how the guarantee worked – such as whether there was a fall-back position in which one club would select the winner.
He said the AFL did not have to change the competition rules to enable the program, but that the AFL Commission ''made a determination'' that the show's winner could be recruited as a category B player.
The contestants include players from the amateurs and from remote country areas, as well as suburban players.
The show's producers did not want to imitate Cricket Superstar – a similar cricket television contest – or a soccer version made for TV, in that they wanted older players from outside the conventional pathways.
The view is these players will have more interesting life stories than an overlooked player from the TAC Cup.
While the draft system has not been outlined to club recruiters, the AFL expressed confidence that there were clubs with a genuine interest in recruiting a player, or players, from the show.
It is possible clubs could draft a category B recruit from the show who is not the official winner. One source familiar with the show likened the scenario to the Australian Idol of 2003, when singer Guy Sebastian was the winner but runner-up Shannon Noll went on to be similarly successful.