FOOTBALLERS should be admired for ambition and not pilloried for disloyalty.
Clubs are looking closely at their player relationships in these uncertain and evolving times. For too long players have been asked to remain loyal and trust that they will be a part of something great. But loyalty requires true connection, a fully engaged relationship from both parties - not just the player. Loyalty is a two-way street.
Players have generally been treated unfairly when it comes to the possibility of moving to another club. With the change that is now upon us, it would be hypocritical of clubs to think players will opt for loyalty instead of maximising their opportunity in what can be a short-lived career.
In 1996 Chris Grant was offered an unprecedented sum to join the newly established Port Adelaide. At the time Grant said he'd ''fallen in love with the lure of being a one-team player''. Had Grant accepted Port's offer, he would have played in a premiership, grand finals and for a more significant financial reward.
At the time the pressure on Grant was enormous. And if the same situation played out now, his decision might be different.
The landscape has changed and agents are taking more responsibility to understand the market. The more experienced the agent the better the opportunities for a player, or a coach.
Gary Ablett showed that last season. Ablett, too, had the lure of being a one-team player. In the end, the financial opportunity to join the Gold Coast Suns was far too great. Many accused him of being disloyal, but the opportunity to stay at Geelong during a successful period was not enough to keep the Suns at bay.
AFL players and coaches have every right to explore ambition - Ross Lyon showed that last season when he left St Kilda to seize what he felt was a better opportunity at Fremantle.
It is something the public will have to get used to. Loyalty will no longer be the deciding factor in most decisions. It is becoming an old-fashioned concept. The AFL environment is intense and under scrutiny. Players and coaches are looking to maximise earning potential in what can be a very brief existence.
There is no room for hypocrisy now. Players should be applauded for exploring their future to grow, to prosper and to keep their dream alive. Loyalty is not something that should necessarily stop people acquiring a greater source of income.
If your club accuses a player of disloyalty, then I hope it won't take advantage of free agency and acquire a player from another club. It is time to welcome change and understand that the market demands player movement. Respect and admire the ambition of players and coaches.
The Secret Agent is one of the 72 AFL accredited agents.
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