2020 AFL Draft Media Opportunity
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 10: The Victorian first round draft picks pose for a photograph during the NAB AFL Draft media opportunity at Marvel Stadium on December 10, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Recently, SEN's Garry Lyon posed co-host Tim Watson a question regarding the AFL's young players. "Are young players asking for too much too soon?" he mischievously prompted his co-host.

It was in response to the usual trade scuttlebutt that begins at this time of year. Just as consistent as the trade whispers are the rumblings from ex-players in the media about young players and what they'll reportedly be earning.

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You know, the sort of "must be nice" type of rubbish they like to trot out. As though these highly paid media personalities are really doing it tough.

It's understandable on some level, the figures being reported, often inaccurately, can be eye-watering. However, at times it comes across as both hypocritical and as sour grapes.

The fact these players are professionals in an era when the game is generating the most revenue, global pandemics aside, is not something they can control.

Similarly, the fact these media commentators were playing at some stage between the 1970's and the early 2000's is also beyond anyone's control.

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Take Kane Cornes for example. Never short of a word at the best of times, he has been extremely vocal on some of the pay packets going to players these days.

He barely mentions inflation, so there's never any balance to his argument. On top of that, during his own AFL career the average salary of players rose from $150,000-$200,00 per year, to somewhere around $250,000 a year. Hardly peanuts.

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With Watson and Lyon, unfortunately the game wasn't as professional as it is now, however it opened up doors for them. Both of them have been in the media for decades, so again, not exactly living on the poverty line.

They'll argue if they played now they could have earned even more. Fair enough. Personally, if I were alive at a time when six packs cost $4.30 and a house went for under $100,000, I could also have done very well. Sadly, it wasn't meant to be.

In every day life, no one is ever really begrudged leaving a job for a better opportunity and more money. Why should the AFL be any different?

If the sport is going to be this professional, people need to get comfortable with the levels of money in the game. Similarly, players have a lot more choice these days and are going to move for greater opportunity and rewards.

2018 AFL Draft
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 22: The top 21 draft picks pose for a photograph during the 2018 NAB AFL Draft at Marvel Stadium on November 22, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

While some will argue it's too much, too soon, the facts are that players are doing what's right by themselves. When the average career is roughly 5-6 years, there is no such thing as too soon.

If it could all be over tomorrow, players are entitled to make hay while the sun shines. The clubs are ruthless with players, why shouldn't it be the same going back the other way?

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Some have argued for more years on the rookie deal that players sign when first drafted. While this is understandable, this doesn't afford the players the chance to capitalise on their careers.

Most don't go into the media after their playing days are done. Some go into coaching, the majority go out into the real world to earn a regular living.

When the average career is 5 or 6 years, spending 3-4 of them on on rookie wages is shortchanging the players on this once in a lifetime opportunity.

It's not comparable to the US, where rookies are on automatic four-year deals and the money is life changing. Here it's good money, but they're hardly living on easy street for the rest of their lives.

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When one injury can change all of that, it seems harsh to begrudge them the chance to make the most of it.

Perhaps, as GWS list manager Jason McCartney argued, it should be the first round picks who get longer rookie deals.

So long as they're fairly compensated for their potential, this presents as a possible workaround. But why give the clubs even more power?

GWS can hardly feel aggrieved when players who they leave in the reserves for three years want out for more opportunity and better money. Again, it comes across as hypocritical.

The bottom line is, the AFL industry, particularly the fans and the media, need to come to grips with the state of the modern game. It's not going back to the old days, no matter how much we might want it to.

The AFL bases themselves on their US counterparts for a reason. The sooner we get comfortable with players moving for big money, the better.

It doesn't mean we have to like it, but let the fans voice those opinions rather than people who are similarly, on very big money.