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Saint great Neale goes into bat for Goddard

CHAOS, a sad day for football and a free-for-all - free agency has been met with fear in some quarters but is proving a hit with players.

It was the players who lobbied the league for the new mechanism to change clubs.

Still, some of the league's most respected figures, including former Sydney premiership coach Paul Roos, remain unconvinced.

The AFL's inaugural free-agency period started with a bang on Monday when Brendon Goddard left St Kilda for Essendon in a four-year deal worth about $2.9 million.

As the week progressed, Quinten Lynch defected from West Coast to Collingwood, Port Adelaide's Danyle Pearce moved to Fremantle, while the Power deliberated on whether to match Richmond's offer for Troy Chaplin.

Saints coach Scott Watters blasted Goddard's departure as being all about money, but Kevin Neale - who played in St Kilda's only premiership in 1966 - said the 27-year-old should be given some slack.


''You can't be critical of the fellow,'' Neale said. ''He might be able to set himself up for life now in the next four years. Why would you not have a dip at it?''

But Neale said money was only part of the reason behind Goddard's departure. ''Melbourne have got money at the moment to pay, but I don't think Goddard would have moved to Melbourne for an extra $200,000 because you want to move to a club that you think is going to be successful in the next three-or-four years.''

Rather than be critical of players leaving, Neale questioned the compensation process. The Saints are expected to get a first-round draft pick and will know in two weeks what number that pick will be.

Neale said the club needed an experienced ruckman or defender.

''It's no good getting 18-year-olds to do that because they take three or four years to develop,'' he said.

''We need a couple [of experienced players] now, but I don't think we are going to get access to anyone at this stage by the look of it. But this is the first year, it will be interesting to see how it actually pans out.

''[The AFL] might sit down at the end of this year and say there are a few things that aren't quite right in it and we'll have to make some changes.''

However, Roos' words suggested the system should be scrapped. He was alarmed about the volume and ease of player movement, declaring the start of free agency ''a sad day for football''.

But Carlton captain and dual Brownlow medallist Chris Judd said he was encouraged by the amount of control that free agency had given players over their careers.

''There has been a lot of movement and I think it's good,'' Judd said on Tuesday night.

''There are not many workplaces in the world where you say, as an 18-year-old, 'I want to be an accountant' and then you lose control of where you want to live and all those sorts of things.

''I think it's nice, particularly for older players, who might find it hard to get a trade and I guess may not carry a lot of power in their relationship with the club.''

Essendon great and AFL Players Association board member Simon Madden said in the past, players were treated like chattels during the trade period, with no say over their careers. ''You'll find that most players want to play for the one club.''