JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

The journey

Illustration: Mick Connolly

Illustration: Mick Connolly

THIS time last year, Mitch Clark quit Brisbane and intended to head home to Perth when he was waylaid and found that he wasn't so homesick after all. Melbourne's massive offer cured poor Mitch of homesickness and he lost interest in becoming a Docker and reuniting with his family.

Kurt Tippett also has detoured in his journey from Adelaide to his Gold Coast ''home'' and found his way to Sydney, where, we now learn, he was born and has various extended family members. Tippett has been lured to the SCG by some combination of money, ''lifestyle'' or the promise of success - that he might have achieved in Adelaide. Sydney, clearly, isn't a difficult sell at this moment.

Should the Swans get the deal done - and under Andrew Ireland's watch they seldom fail on that score - Kurt will not be popular in the city of churches, which is tiring of losing players and prospective coaches to clubs in developing states.

Leon Cameron preferred to join Greater Western Sydney, and take a Kirribilli deal out west, rather than starting at Port Adelaide immediately. This made sense, given the greater talent available at the new team and the certainty that the newborn AFL franchise will be cosseted like a baby by headquarters.

In Adelaide, the Swans will be viewed more like Vampires than the heroic ''Bloods'' of the grand final.

Adelaide, the city, is not faring well in terms of retaining or attracting people, despite the excellence of the Crows. Port Adelaide has lost Troy Chaplin, Danyle Pearce and has been forced to pay a premium for Travis Boak. Ken Hinkley is deserving of his appointment and, judged by Geelong's testimony, may prove an excellent coach, but he has won the job Steven Bradbury-style, as various candidates either pulled out or were purloined.

Port may land some players, such as Angus Monfries, but, as with other stragglers, it will be forced to pay above award rates. Monfries commands a four-year deal at Port and only two at Essendon, which really needs him discarded in order to pay for Brendon Goddard. West Coast is offering Sharrod Wellingham far less than Melbourne, which offers him the opportunity to stay living with Buddy Franklin, yet he still nominated the Eagles.

Teams near the bottom pay a ''loading'' for out-of-contract players that is greater than the 10 per cent the Swans are permitted for the cost of living allowance. For the Dees, Dogs, Port and possibly Brisbane and the Suns, you can only land players by paying ''overs''.

One of the critical questions in free agency is whether players are more reluctant to join smaller teams, with fewer resources, or if they simply want to play for teams that win games. At present, the smaller clubs are over-represented at the ladder's foot, but the cycle will turn at some stage. Then and only then will we know whether this freer market works for the little guys, or just enriches those with money.

That North Melbourne has been in the race for Josh Caddy and Melbourne wasn't even considered suggests that the small teams can hold their own in attracting players. They just need to show they're on the up.

The more surprising exodus than Port's has been from Adelaide, which stands as the club most victimised by expansion. They have lost, in order, Nathan Bock, Phil Davis, Jack Gunston and now Tippett since the competition introduced the new clubs. Bock and Davis were given ridiculous Godfather offers, double their worth. Gunston went home to Melbourne, while the Suns have been a means to jemmy Tippett out of Adelaide, only for him to decide Coogee is more enticing than the sand at Surfers.

The Crows have lost three quarters of what might be a premiership spine, plus the promising 193-centimetre Gunston. Their recruiting of teenagers has been outstanding - signing Taylor Walker is perhaps the game's greatest player coup, considering that he was a NSW scholarship player, from footy-friendly Broken Hill, who cost them nothing in the draft. At 22, he is already a superior player to Tippett.

Daniel Talia won the rising star as a tall defender this year, while the local yokels no longer question the club for picking Patrick Dangerfield, a kid from Moggs Creek near Anglesea, ahead of South Australians.

In years past, drafting a collective that included Tippett, Walker, Dangerfield, Talia, Gunston, Davis and Rory Sloane would set a club up for several years and assure it several tilts at the premiership. But, unfortunately for the Crows, expansion and free agency have changed the way clubs assemble contending teams.

Geelong's extraordinary success was a miracle of drafting. The Cats believed in growing their own players. The three premiership teams contained only one player ''traded in'' - Brad Ottens (James Podsiadly, who made the 2011 team, never played senior footy at his previous clubs and came via the VFL). The bulk of the guns were picked in two drafts, 1999 and 2001. Once I asked Cats boss Brian Cook when a club could afford to top up. ''I'm not sure it ever works,'' he replied.

Essendon, too, has long favoured growing its own over ''topping up'', despite Kevin Sheedy's occasional attempts at exhuming the careers of miscreants. The Bombers never gave up decent draft picks and James Hird and Mark Thompson made plain that bringing in young talent, via the draft, would remain the Essendon way. Critics from rival clubs said the Dons had to stick to drafting because of their failure to offer anything decent for a player they wanted.

The Goddard recruitment, thus, marks a watershed for Essendon, which has recognised that in this new paradigm of free agency and a somewhat liberalised market, premiership teams cannot just be organic.

The Swans are masters of bringing in canned imports, often no-name branded, to play specific roles. Hawthorn had four important acquisitions from other clubs in its grand final team - Josh Gibson, Shaun Burgoyne, David Hale and Gunston; as with Sydney's Josh Kennedy, Rhyce Shaw et al, that quartet were all bought to redress a particular need. Collingwood needed Darren Jolly and Luke Ball to lift the cup in 2010.

The Cats, likewise, have shifted from organic production - they were consummate market gardeners - to show a far greater willingness to bring in mature players, at some cost, in order to keep their finals team thereabouts, as those talented kids gradually replace the classes of '99 and 2001. Hamish McIntosh is a good chance to join them, Jared Rivers is being entertained and they're favourites in the auction for Caddy.

Geelong's way won it three premierships. Sydney has hoisted the flag twice, six years apart, with a different recruitment philosophy (albeit it has drafted exceptionally, too). While both might work if well executed, the new rules are tilting the post-season game towards the Sydney way.

Related Coverage

HuffPost Australia

AFL 2015

Round 1
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
CAR 78vs RIC 105 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MEL 115vs GCF 89 Stats
SYD 72vs ESS 60 Stats
BRI 74vs COL 86 Stats
WBU 97vs WCE 87 Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs GWS 87 Stats
ADE 140vs NTH 63 Stats
FRE 75vs PTA 68 Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 123vs GEE 61 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE 131vs CAR 62 Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 66vs WBU 85 Report Stats
GWS 101vs MEL 56 Stats
COL 63vs ADE 90 Report Stats
GCF 76vs STK 104 Stats
PTA 44vs SYD 92 Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 60vs FRE 104 Stats
ESS 78vs HAW 76 Stats
NTH 133vs BRI 51 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 140vs STK 66 Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84vs ESS 105 Stats
ADE 80vs MEL 55 Stats
SYD 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
NTH 105vs PTA 113 Stats
BRI 58vs RIC 137 Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 127vs WBU 57 Stats
GEE 105vs GCF 96 Stats
WCE 81vs FRE 111 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51vs MEL 83 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 81vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
ESS 49vs COL 69 Report Stats
GWS 119vs GCF 53 Stats
PTA 99vs HAW 91 Stats
FRE 74vs SYD 60 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 65vs WCE 118 Stats
GEE 67vs NTH 83 Stats
WBU 125vs ADE 68 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 45vs COL 120 Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC 76vs GEE 85 Stats
SYD 73vs WBU 77 Stats
GCF 118vs BRI 54 Stats
NTH 70vs HAW 130 Stats
WCE 120vs GWS 33 Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL 50vs FRE 118 Stats
STK 80vs ESS 82 Stats
ADE 91vs PTA 115 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL 59vs GEE 100 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH 109vs RIC 74 Stats
WBU 87vs STK 94 Stats
GWS 108vs HAW 98 Stats
GCF 78vs ADE 119 Stats
MEL 50vs SYD 88 Stats
FRE 80vs ESS 52 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 75vs BRI 84 Report Stats
PTA 68vs WCE 78 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 82vs NTH 93 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 119vs STK 73 Stats
HAW 155vs MEL 50 Stats
CAR 57vs GWS 135 Stats
SYD 120vs GEE 77 Stats
WCE 135vs GCF 43 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
WBU 88vs FRE 101 Stats
RIC 105vs COL 100 Report Stats
BRI 102vs PTA 65 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 140vs CAR 63 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs WCE 131 Report Stats
GWS 108vs ADE 84 Report Stats
GCF 63vs COL 132 Report Stats
HAW 69vs SYD 73 Report Stats
FRE 115vs NTH 42 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 136vs BRI 78 Report Stats
MEL 103vs WBU 64 Report Stats
PTA 43vs RIC 76 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 122vs CAR 62 Report Stats
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW 93vs GCF 40 Report Stats
MEL 54vs PTA 115 Report Stats
WBU 113vs GWS 68 Report Stats
RIC 72vs ESS 59 Report Stats
ADE 57vs FRE 68 Report Stats
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI 86vs STK 108 Report Stats
COL 112vs NTH 95 Report Stats
WCE 120vs GEE 64 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 70vs RIC 97 Report Stats
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 90vs ADE 99 Report Stats
GCF 41vs SYD 93 Report Stats
ESS 53vs GEE 122 Report Stats
PTA 100vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS 97vs BRI 67 Report Stats
NTH 85vs WCE 75 Report Stats
STK 69vs HAW 132 Report Stats
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL 85vs COL 110 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA 69vs GEE 92 Report Stats
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF 46vs FRE 53 Report Stats
WCE 96vs ESS 46 Report Stats
NTH 75vs SYD 91 Report Report Stats
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
COL 119vs GWS 77 Report Stats
STK 85vs MEL 83 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE 85vs HAW 114 Report Stats
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC 70vs WCE 90 Report Stats
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 110vs PTA 106 Report Stats
GWS 61vs NTH 117 Report Stats
WBU 146vs BRI 74 Report Stats
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE 89vs MEL 113 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 80vs COL 73 Report Stats
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD 77vs RIC 95 Report Stats
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW 114vs ESS 76 Report Stats
BRI 69vs ADE 82 Report Stats
STK 56vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 103vs GCF 69 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD 94vs PTA 84 Report Stats
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
COL 91vs HAW 101 Report Stats
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 78vs GWS 69 Report Stats
GCF 125vs NTH 70 Report Stats
WBU 64vs CAR 53 Report Stats
MEL 60vs WCE 114 Report Stats
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 52vs STK 162 Stats
ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE 84vs BRI 48 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA 66vs COL 63 Report Stats
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 71vs CAR 41 Report Stats
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 69vs MEL 60 Report Stats
WBU 95vs GCF 73 Report Stats
NTH 120vs GEE 79 Report Stats
WCE 147vs ADE 91 Report Stats
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 84vs STK 49 Report Stats
HAW 115vs FRE 43 Report Stats
BRI 49vs SYD 70 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH 93vs ESS 68 Report Stats
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE 72vs WBU 64 Report Stats
GCF 79vs GWS 94 Report Stats
COL 56vs WCE 87 Report Stats
SYD 57vs HAW 146 Report Stats
FRE 95vs CAR 53 Report Stats
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL 60vs BRI 36 Report Stats
PTA 113vs ADE 116 Report Stats
STK 73vs RIC 89 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR 35vs HAW 173 Report Stats
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 42vs GEE 69 Stats
ADE 125vs GCF 80 Stats
RIC 78vs FRE 82 Stats
ESS 116vs PTA 129 Stats
BRI 38vs NTH 110 Report Stats
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
WBU 104vs COL 86 Report Stats
MEL 46vs STK 83 Report Stats
WCE 103vs SYD 51 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW 53vs RIC 71 Report Stats
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 113vs BRI 57 Stats
COL 54vs MEL 91 Report Stats
SYD 117vs ADE 65 Report Stats
CAR 54vs NTH 118 Report Stats
GCF 83vs WCE 83 Report Stats
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA 112vs STK 49 Report Stats
ESS 40vs WBU 127 Report Stats
FRE 84vs GWS 63 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 88vs RIC 52 Report Stats
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 105vs CAR 87 Report Stats
WBU 128vs PTA 64 Report Stats
BRI 100vs GCF 114 Report Stats
GEE 95vs SYD 63 Report Stats
WCE 74vs HAW 88 Report Stats
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL 92vs NTH 127 Report Stats
GWS 93vs ESS 61 Report Stats
STK 59vs FRE 96 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD 87vs COL 76 Report Stats
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS 59vs ADE 171 Report Stats
NTH 120vs STK 83 Report Stats
PTA 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
GEE 85vs HAW 121 Report Stats
BRI 131vs CAR 67 Report Stats
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC 138vs GCF 55 Report Stats
WBU 153vs MEL 55 Report Stats
FRE 80vs WCE 104 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW 86vs PTA 108 Report Stats
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 56vs RIC 147 Report Stats
GWS 44vs SYD 133 Report Stats
GCF 97vs ESS 95 Report Stats
STK 97vs GEE 97 Report Stats
ADE 131vs BRI 44 Report Stats
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH 94vs FRE 83 Report Stats
CAR 78vs MEL 55 Report Stats
WCE 162vs WBU 85 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 62vs COL 110 Report Stats
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS 132vs CAR 51 Report Stats
HAW 134vs BRI 62 Report Stats
NTH 73vs WBU 96 Report Stats
ESS 47vs RIC 74 Report Stats
GCF 51vs PTA 88 Report Stats
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 126vs WCE 69 Report Stats
STK 38vs SYD 135 Report Stats
FRE 108vs MEL 54 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
RIC 108vs NTH 67 Report Stats
Sat, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
GEE 119vs ADE 80 Stats
BRI 123vs WBU 122 LIVE Stats
PTA 9vs FRE 28 Stats
HAW ($1.01)vs CAR ($19.00) 16:40MCG
SYD ($1.04)vs GCF ($12.00) 19:25SCG
WCE ($1.04)vs STK ($12.00) 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
MEL ($2.40)vs GWS ($1.57) 13:10ES
COL ($1.28)vs ESS ($3.70) 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Fremantle 21 17 4 0 125.10 68
West Coast Eagles 21 15 5 1 143.00 62
Hawthorn 21 15 6 0 156.77 60
Sydney Swans 21 15 6 0 124.11 60
Richmond 22 15 7 0 123.09 60
Western Bulldogs 22 14 8 0 115.12 56
Adelaide Crows 21 13 8 0 115.71 54
North Melbourne 22 13 9 0 106.45 52
View all
 

Follow Us on Facebook

Featured advertisers