The league has been examining a system that would see each draft pick assigned a points value.

The league has been examining a system that would see each draft pick assigned a points value. Photo: Getty Images

Sydney would have completely withdrawn from the national draft and started recruiting exclusively from New South Wales under a radical proposal put to the AFL when the club was pushing for the establishment of the Swans' Academy more than nine years ago.

The Swans were willing to pull out of the draft over a three-year period, using the club's second- and third-round picks to preselect local talent in 2008 and '09 before withdrawing altogether from 2010.

The idea was put to the league in early 2005, when Sydney first explained its plans for the Swans Academy in a paper outlining the club's strong view that talent identification and development in NSW and the ACT needed a major overhaul if the AFL was to attract enough talented teenage athletes.

At the time, the club had been trying to convince NBA basketballer Patrick Mills, a promising under-15 footballer from Canberra, to stick with football rather than accept a basketball scholarship with the Australian Institute of Sport, but it was unable to show him any clear pathway to the AFL.

The Swans Academy is in its fourth year, costing the club about $1million a year, with Sydney this year set to secure top three talent Isaac Heeney with its late first-round pick.

Gold Coast, Greater Western Sydney and Brisbane run similar academies, with the Lions last year drafting key forward Jono Freeman with the club's third round pick after Adelaide bid for him.

The emergence of Heeney – and the belief that Sydney will start scoring similar bargains year-in, year-out – prompted other clubs to lobby the AFL for a change to the bidding system, which also applies to father-son draftees and takes place on the first morning of the trade period in early October.

While the league is continuing to research and test potential new bidding formats, it was not ready to introduce anything this year, meaning the top-of-the-ladder Swans must simply match any first-round bid for Heeney with their first selection in the draft.

Sydney chief executive Andrew Ireland confirmed the Swans' proposal, saying the club was confident it could have developed enough local talent to justify removing itself from the draft. He said that while "the AFL thought we might have been a bit too optimistic, our view was that there had to be more genuine, elite talent in NSW, given the population".

"We didn't believe first-choice athletes were picking AFL as their game of choice, we thought something dramatic had to happen and we're starting to see it happen with the academies."

Under the bidding system for academy and father-son prospects, clubs must match a bid for one of their nominated players with their next selection in the draft. Last year, North Melbourne used its No.8 pick to match West Coast's bid of pick six for Luke McDonald.

The league has been examining a system that would see each draft pick assigned a points value.

Under that format, which was run by clubs earlier this month, a club matching a bid for one of its nominated players would  have to match the number of points bid for him. If it needed to subtract  picks from a second selection, that pick would be moved further down the order. Under this system, bidding could take place on draft night.

The idea behind the academies is to grow the talent pools and then the game in those states. Draft numbers from NSW and Queensland have been perennially poor.

The Swans Academy involves hundreds of children, aged 11 and up, and employs 60 coaches across the club's zone. 

Heeney grew up in Newcastle and played soccer before joining his local Australian Rules club and becoming involved with the Swans Academy after he was spotted at a carnival.

The club this year relocated him to Sydney so that he could finish his year 12 studies without the pressure of travel, while playing for the NSW/ACT under-18 team and the Swans' NEAFL side.