Does the AFL world have a bit of tall poppy syndrome? Is there an issue with players that make big-money moves to big clubs, if so, is that issue fixable or is it ingrained in the culture of our game?

Especially since the introduction of free agency, there seems to have been a shift in the way the footy fans look at big moves for players.

Player movement has always been a touchy subject, but now with top-end talent and free agents earning richer and longer deals than ever before, there seems to be discontent with athletes strengthening their bottom line.

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Even when those in the outer are seemingly fond of a player, if they make a move as a free agent to a big club on a big deal, the attitude towards that player seems to shift dramatically.

This isn't a new issue.

You can look back at the move of Dale Thomas to Carlton at the end of the 2013 season. 'Daisy' was a beloved figure around the competition before they made the move to the Blues on a deal worth around $750,000 per season.

Injuries impacted the first-round draftee's ability to reach the form he produced at Collingwood and rather than sympathise, the footy world turned on Thomas.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 26: Dale Thomas of the Blues and his teammates leave the field after losing the round 10 AFL match between the St Kilda Saints and the Carlton Blues at Marvel Stadium on May 26, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

The heavy criticism Thomas copped may have been fair at times, but there was no let-up or understanding like he received when battling the same issues at Collingwood.

With the minds of the masses altered, it proved to be years before Thomas won back the affection of the footy world.

But it's happened to a number of players since.

Zac Williams, Tom Lynch, Adam Treloar and Dylan Shiel are just a few players who were seemingly darlings of neutral fans before they made their big-money moves.

Perhaps they were well-liked because they played at expansion clubs. Or maybe it was due to the perception that they were battling above their pay grade before making their move.

Williams and Shiel may not have performed to the expectations of their newest teams, but the immediacy of the pile on has seemed a tad extreme given how adored and respected they were when at GWS.

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Lynch has had a few incidents that have drawn the fury of fans over the last 24 months. But would fans be as outraged if he was playing for the struggling Suns on a lesser contract and not a two-time premiership player earning a very attractive paycheque at Richmond?

Treloar was another who made the move from an expansion club to a big Melbourne team and he was often the first criticised when Collingwood played poorly. Fast forward a few years and he is now universally loved again since his move to the Western Bulldogs.

With all due respect to the Bulldogs, they aren't nearly as big a club as Collingwood. So why has the tune seemingly changed? Is it because of how Collingwood treated him or is it because he is no longer a high earner for the biggest club in the country?

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The footy world is very fast to turn on free agents who opt to leave their club for a juicier offer at a bigger club it seems.

Conversely, you don't see nearly the same level of criticism or hate hurled the way of players who re-sign on much bigger deals than they were originally on.

Harry McKay, Brodie Grundy, Josh Kelly, Zach Merrett, Marcus Bontempelli, Lachie Whitfield all signed deservingly wealthy deals to stay with their clubs and the judgement of these players hasn't moved an inch.

Grundy's deal may be one of the key triggers in Collingwood's salary cap issues, but that's not his fault. He may also be viewed and judged on the same level as he was before he re-signed, but it can't be argued that his bank balance is now significantly healthier.

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Perhaps the key factor in this maintained mindset is that the South Australian didn't leave the club the drafted him to earn that money. He didn't seek a move home to be closer to family.

It's a confusing dynamic.

Becoming more critical of players who take a rise in pay while moving workplaces to be closer to family or to be in a city they wish to live seems a tad off, considering any member of the general public would almost certainly take a job that paid more and allowed them to move a city of their choice if given the opportunity.

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So why does there seem to be a qualm? Is it an issue with these players making more money or is it about what club they end up at?

All of the players mentioned above, Thomas (Carlton), Shiel (Essendon), Williams (Carlton), Treloar (Collingwood), Lynch (Richmond), all made moves to teams that would be viewed as "big Melbourne clubs".

Joe Daniher left Essendon to go to Brisbane and he is as loved now as ever.

Jack Steele while not a free agent left the Giants to go to St Kilda. His move wasn't a big-money move but it was still an increase that has only got bigger. The Saints' skipper is another who adored league-wide and rightly so.

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Brandon Ellis' move to Gold Coast has allowed him to make more money than when at Richmond and also avoid criticism many free agents cope with.

When Lynch left the Gold Coast at the bottom of the ladder to go to reigning premiers Richmond, people were up in arms at the move. But will they be as mad if Ben King leaves the Suns to join St Kilda?

St Kilda while maybe not be in premiership contention by the end of next year but they will likely be in a more advanced position than the Suns. The more tanned of the King twins will command a big contract and would leave the Suns without arguably their best player.

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But would the fact that St Kilda isn't one of the AFL's 'big four' clubs mean fans won't be as critical of King?

Yes, it comes with the territory that if you sign a big-money deal you will be judged harsher because you are being paid to perform to a higher level. But there seems to be more disdain towards some free agents than others.

It's almost as if it wouldn't matter what they did, the criticism will come because they made the switch.

The thing is, these deals aren't going to slow down anytime soon. They may only get bigger. And while the AFL tries to play catchup to free agency and player movement maybe the footy world needs to start accepting these deals and taking them with a spoonful of sugar rather than salt.