Players in the AFL get off very lightly when it comes to moving clubs.
Far too often players can demand a trade away from a club without seeing out their contract. This is something that needs to change.
If the AFL wants the likes of Gold Coast and GWS to last, then they need to be able to hold their players to the contracts they sign and feel confident that they can retain them.
Homesickness should not be considered a valid excuse in the AFL. A level of professionalism and integrity must be maintained.
This past off-season saw Tim Kelly request a trade from Geelong back to his home state of Western Australia.
Despite this apparent ‘homesickness’, Kelly refused the chance to go to Fremantle instead preferring West Coast.
This showed no courtesy to Geelong, who had given him his chance in the league, and the club rightfully refused to trade Kelly to the Eagles as there was still time to run on his contract.
What should be pointed out is that the issue doesn’t come from players moving upon the expiration of their contract.
Had Kelly waited another year then him moving west becomes less of an issue.
Richmond’s Tom Lynch, formerly of Gold Coast, and North Melbourne’s Jared Polec, formerly of Port Adelaide, are both examples of this.
Both players had played multiple years at their respective clubs and were not signed for 2019. This allowed them to choose their destination as they saw fit. A free agency move is something that a club can plan for, a sudden trade demand is not.
Gold Coast will have long been resigned to the fact that Lynch was leaving and been able to plan around. This is the opposite of GWS’ situation in the past year.
The Giants lost Dylan Shiel and Rory Lobb despite them both having a year to run on their contracts.
While GWS may have received four first round picks in return, there is no guarantee that those picks will bring the club any closer to success.
With Shiel and Lobb, the club knew what they had, and they lost them despite their deals still having time to run. Too often it is the players that are dictating what a club’s next move is. The AFL needs to try and reverse this.
Clubs should be able to make moves because it benefits them in their pursuit of a premiership and not have to cater to the desires of their players.
It should be a matter of if a club wants to move a player then it is up to the organisation whether that happens, not the individual.
A possible solution to this is to alter where the power lies within the league and in clubs. The club can trade whoever they wish and move them wherever they like, as they are the ones paying the players.
Make players earn the right to move clubs by playing out their contracts, proving themselves and being offered a deal elsewhere.
The alternative to this is what we have now, where players are able to make moves happen if they decide they are unhappy.
It’s time to hold players to their contracts, show consideration to the teams they are at and give power to the clubs to retain their stars