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Mid-year draft will cover for injuries

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AT THE latest AFL agents' conference, the expansion of club lists was raised as a key topic in the players' association's future negotiations with the AFL. A mid-season draft would be a good way of alleviating the pressure on clubs suffering from lengthening injury lists.

Players, coaches and club administrators are keen, with lists too small to deal effectively with longer seasons, more rotations and scientifically advanced programs putting more strain on players' bodies.

The latest AFL injury report highlighted that missed games per club has increased every year since 2002 and over the past decade an average of 140.8 games have been missed per club.

Clubs are asking players to play out of position to compensate. This was highlighted on Saturday when St Kilda's Jason Blake, at only 189 centimetres tall, carried the ruck against Sydney. Asking a player to play in an unfamiliar position, and one he is not necessarily physically built for, may in turn increase the chance of injury.

By allowing a mid-season draft, clubs would have the ability to cover serious injuries and further risk to the list. Collingwood desperately needs to cover the loss of Nathan Brown, Ben Reid and Lachlan Keeffe in defence. The Pies are victims of misfortune rather than poor management.

The AFL should allow clubs to participate in a mid-season draft if they have two or more players on their long-term injury list by round 12. Eligible clubs would have the chance to recruit a player as an unrestricted free agent for the remainder of the season. At season's end, this recruit could either exercise their right as a free agent or agree to a contract extension with the club that secured him via the draft.

Limiting the interchange bench to three has not slowed down rotations and the game is still played at a frenetic pace. Players are working even harder on their stamina and pace - putting more strain on their bodies and increasing the chances of missing games.

The time has come for the AFL to give clubs more security and allow the safety blanket of a mid-season draft. It would not just attract interest, it would ultimately provide the league with a better spectacle and allow clubs the opportunity to not risk players in foreign positions.

The Secret Agent is one of the AFL's 72 accredited player agents.