AFL plans for priority pick applications from lowly Blues and Suns
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AFL plans for priority pick applications from lowly Blues and Suns

The AFL is preparing for Carlton and Gold Coast to make applications for priority draft picks at the end of the season.

The expectation from the league is that both clubs will apply, as they must to have a chance of receiving an extra draft pick under the rules. Carlton and Gold Coast have won two and four games respectively in 2018, occupying the bottom two positions on the table.

Gold Coast have lost their co-captain and free agent Tom Lynch to a Victorian side next season.

Gold Coast have lost their co-captain and free agent Tom Lynch to a Victorian side next season.

Photo: AAP

In preparing for the probable applications for draft assistance, the AFL will consider the positions of both clubs and the quality of their playing lists. The league has already undertaken some analysis of the playing lists of Carlton and Gold Coast.

AFL head of football Steve Hocking and the league’s general counsel, Andrew Dillon, are understood to having been taking a broad look at Carlton and the Suns. Under the system, the AFL executive will make recommendations on whether the clubs should receive assistance, with the AFL Commission the final arbiter.

A decision cannot be reached until next month at the earliest.

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While Carlton had said that the Blues would not be seeking a priority pick earlier this year, Fairfax Media believes that when the club took that stance, it did so believing there was little chance that an application would be successful.

Carlton’s position has softened since then and the club has had conversations with the AFL about its state. There has been regular dialogue with the Suns about their challenges, which have been highlighted further by the loss of co-captain and free agent Tom Lynch, who will join a Victorian club – either Richmond, Collingwood or Hawthorn – in the post-season.

The AFL hierarchy has held concerns about the length of time that rebuilding teams take to climb the ladder. The Blues were knocked back when they applied for a priority selection in 2015. The Brisbane Lions received a priority pick at the end of the first round in 2016.

It is widely accepted within the industry, too, that the lower teams struggle to attract players - free agents or those out of contract - compared with the top sides.

The recent precedent has been that clubs receive a selection at the end of the first round, rather than the previous, generous system of handing them a priority pick at top of the draft. This was seen to encourage ‘‘tanking’’ and was scrapped.

It is open for the AFL to award an earlier pick, such as the middle of the first round, although this would be a change of policy. The league is considering long-term changes, such as giving a pick to teams that miss finals for a long period, but none will be in place for this year’s draft.

When asked about whether the club might apply for a priority pick, Carlton coach Brendon Bolton last week said: ‘‘We will be open minded about revisiting it at the end of the year, I would have thought.’’

Gold Coast chairman Tony Cochrane has already suggested that the club would seek draft help, as it dealt with defections of quality players to Victorian clubs. Based on current ladder position, the Suns also will receive pick No.3 for losing Lynch (in addition to their pick No.2) if they don’t match the contract offer from the club he chooses as a free agent.