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Free agency gets off to a clean, efficient start

On the move: St Kilda’s Brendon Goddard is now a Don.

On the move: St Kilda’s Brendon Goddard is now a Don. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

SO, DO you like it? Free agency that is. I suspect most won't care too much at this stage. If you are a Saints fan you might have a few misgivings and if you are a Bomber you might think free agency is a hoot. It's a bit like the 1980s and '90s, you find a good player and just get them without having to worry about one of those trades they could never do. Yippee.

This was theoretically day one of the new world order of football, but, in truth, it wasn’t day one. This is, in fact, year four of free agency, but it was day one of free agency for all teams, not just the two new ones.

Three years ago was the thin end of the wedge of what has become the free-(agency)-for-all. Back then, the two start-ups were given the most uncluttered free agency to get started (just take any uncontracted player you want) and so the AFL was snookered into accepting that it had opened a door it could not close.

Well, it could have if it had wanted to — the AFL can do, and does,  whatever it wants — but the players were determined this time and so kept their foot in  that open door and refused to let the AFL close it.

Fremantle is going after Danyle Pearce.

Fremantle is going after Danyle Pearce. Photo: Anthony Johnson

So, on day one in a system that was expected to aid  mid-ranking players more than   marquee players there was something for everyone.

The first deal done was an out-of-favour journeyman finding a new home (Adelaide’s Chris Knights is now a Tiger) and the next signing saw a rising star, Danyle Pearce, tired of his tired club make a move to ‘dock’ in Perth.

Then came the biggest ticket of all, a former No.1 draft pick has gone for cash and a chance at the premiership he had missed out on three times at the club he departs, so Brendon Goddard becomes a Bomber.

Chris Knights is now a Tiger.

Chris Knights is now a Tiger. Photo: Getty Images

Sundry other deals were done or being done – Troy Chaplin leaving the coach-less Port for the Tigers, while Angus Monfries heads home to Adelaide to join the Power.

What was immediately apparent from free agency was that it delivered deals quickly and efficiently. Goddard was offered four years on good dollars, the Saints were unable to match it, so he headed north of the Yarra.  In the space of a few hours it was done and ‘‘BJ’’ was a Bomber.

There was a little reminder from the Saints as he departed that Goddard had just been a life member of the club and a light slap that this was all about money. Well, of course it was, but throw in a fourth year for him and they might have kept him. But given where the Saints are, they will not be upset at the draft pick coming in and the money going out of the salary cap.

Troy Chaplin, pictured celebrating his 100th game in 2010, could be off to Richmond.

Troy Chaplin, pictured celebrating his 100th game in 2010, could be off to Richmond. Photo: David Mariuz

There was no surprise by Monday morning that this deal was tabled early, nor that St Kilda responded rapidly. What was revealing about the deal and - reflective of what free agency delivers - is that everyone knew it was going to happen, and it did. On day one!

This was not one of those tedious trade week deals that excruciatingly hang on until 4.59 on Friday after five days of bluster and stonewalling that normally serves no purpose greater than showboating to fans. The deals normally get done, but seldom on day one. If Goddard were not a restricted free agent could you imagine a trade being brokered day one of trade week?

Efficiency is only one element of free agency. It is a pleasing efficiency in the most part – is anyone at Adelaide gnashing their teeth over losing a player they didn't want to play in the senior team? But it is also a confronting efficiency. In the past, one thing that kept players at clubs were the hoops that might have to be jumped through to get to a new home. And there was no certainty that the deal would get done. Think Luke Ball, not coincidentally the president of the AFL Players Association that pushed so hard for free agency. Is that a reason to stay at a club?

The efficiency of the new system will mean more players move. Mostly the movements will be interesting but inconsequential (like Knights) but the tone will change with more consequential moves – like Goddard's – now that the ability to move is so much easier.

The players like free agency, the smarter clubs will embrace it quickly, and the fans will just be left to wonder why. Why did he want to go? Why didn't we keep him? Why didn't our club get him?


  • I cant beleive that with free agency,Take the bombers with goddard.How can this work when they are getting a very good player for nothing they dont louse a draft pick.It cost the bombers nothing thats not right.Wow st.kilda gets a first round draft pick (they should).from the AFL.the bit i cant work out is it has cost the bombers nothing,The way this goes the poor clubs or clubs that havent got much hope of making the eight will louse there good players (goddard).

    Well hear is a tip the bulldogs will take longer that it took the swans to win theirs 72 years.

    My Opinion is this is to help the richer clubs.Like the bombers,carlton,Richmond.

    Salary cap will not stop clubs from taking good players from other clubs.

    PS=N/Melbourne with barassi with the 10 year rule.that helped by them a premiership and that will not change with the salary cap,mark my words.

    Date and time
    October 02, 2012, 3:44AM
    • I am not sure how the compensation with draft picks work but if my basic understanding of it is even close then the system is unfair. So if a team loses a player they get a compensation draft pick. Let's make an assumption that you are Adelaide and you have pick 16 in the draft. Let's also assume Adelaide do not participate in free agency trades. The neither lose nor gain a player. Free agency trades occur and 15 other teams get compensation picks. All of a sudden Adelaide's first pick in the draft is now pick 31. To me that is just ludicrous. Adelaide would be penalised for doing nothing. I hope I have a complete misunderstanding of how it works.

      Date and time
      October 02, 2012, 8:10AM
    • It's going to cost Essendon about $800k a year times four. They are also going to loose a handful of players this year so they can fit in Goddard's salary, (Monfries and co). It's also going to mean they might not have much room to move in future negotiations with their key players and they might loose a few more over the next couple of years. Doesn't give the Saints much comfort, I understand that, but there's still a cost.

      Date and time
      October 02, 2012, 8:39AM
    • Gilly of Melbourne. You misunderstand the compensation pick system. The pick is allocated based on the 'net' change to a team in the free agency period. To get a 1st round pick, you would need to lose a premium player, and not gain anyone else. You could not have 16 teams all loosing premium players. The end result will likely be only 1 or 2 first round picks being allocated.
      It is a slight disadvantage to Adelaide in this case, but the flip side is that Adelaide are a premiership threat and likely to attract free agents. They have a good chance of picking up a free agent in this period.

      Date and time
      October 02, 2012, 8:41AM
    • Saints could have kept him if they wanted to, all they had to do was offer him a 4 year contract (he will get about 725 a year for 4 years at Bombers & Saints had him on roughly 650 for 3 years) instead they let him go on the basis of "team not individual" that's the path the Saints are treading because they know deep down they are on the slide and need to re-build so with Goddard gone they will have two 1st round picks (to either use or trade) and space in their salary cap to chase another quality player. Personally I like the free agency model but think they should modify the rules more to allow players like Knights who possibly are on the outer at their clubs and can get an opportunity elsewhere to move. With a new coach coming in some players who used to regularly get a game are left behind because the new game plan supercedes them or the new coach has his opinion on that players and the player get frozen out. Maybe if you are a 50-100 game player over say a 5-7 year period and in your last year you play less than half the season and still have a year or 2 on your contract to go and there are no injury issues you could be allowed to field offers to move on. Just a thought

      Date and time
      October 02, 2012, 9:04AM
    • Thanks Matt. So who decides who is a premium player? Also, what makes you so certain 16 premium players couldn't move in the one season. I admit it is unlikely but not impossible. I just don't think there is a need for a compensation pick at all. I barrack for Collingwood and fully expected we would lose Cloke this year. If we had it would have been a poor result but I didn't believe a compensation pick was warranted.

      Date and time
      October 02, 2012, 9:50AM
    • @Gilly, I believe the "premium" players are those who are in the top 25% of the salary cap of their original club - whether they are "restricted" or "un-restricted" (ie 10 years service as opposed to eight)

      Date and time
      October 02, 2012, 10:17AM
    • @Gilly - Even if 16 "premium" players move, they still need 16 new homes. Assume (for argument's sake) that all of them would individually warrant a 1st round compo pick. 16 clubs get a premium player, meaning (at most) 2 clubs have lost a gun with no recompense, and hence get a compo pick.

      Date and time
      October 02, 2012, 10:43AM
    • While Goddard at his best is an elite talent, you also need to factor in his age, and therefore his future shelf life. If you believe the rumours, St Kilda will be receiving a mid-first round draft pick as compensation, which they will be offering to GC in a play for Caddy.

      In three years time, when Goddard is in his twilight, and Caddy is a 23 year old entering the prime of his career, I think Saints supporters might look back and think it was a pretty good outcome for them. If you were pressing for a flag over the next two or three seasons things might be different, but then if that were the case, Goddard may not be seeking a move, and even if he was, the Saints may have been keener to keep him (remember, in all this, the Saints were able to match the offer and retain him if they really considered him indispensable!)

      Latrobe Valley
      Date and time
      October 02, 2012, 12:08PM
    • Syd and Nudge: for goodness sake, it's 'lose'. Not 'louse' (plural of lice) not 'loose' (as in not tight) but 'lose'. I don't normally comment on spelling/grammar but you've both used the word multiple times and spelt it wrong every time.

      Mel B
      Date and time
      October 02, 2012, 1:19PM

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Round 23
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