MELBOURNE, VICTORIA - FEBRUARY 18: Robert Murphy of the Bulldogs leads the team out during the 2017 JLT Community Series match between the Western Bulldogs and the Melbourne Demons at Whitten Oval on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Western Bulldogs captain Bob Murphy believes the AFL should take a leaf from the college sports systems in America, citing the college style pathway program as one that could greatly benefit the league.

Murphy was just 17 when he was drafted in 1999, while 49 of the top 50 picks in last year’s national draft were teenagers.

“I’m not a massive American sports head, but I think their college system is a good way to go,” Murphy told

“Guys don’t reach professionalism until they are 21. I reckon that would be ideal for footballers.”

In the NFL, players cannot be drafted until they’ve spent three years out of high school, meaning the majority go to college to complete their degrees and get selected from there.

In recent years there have been calls for the draft age to be lifted to 19, but as it stands, a player must be 18 or younger before April 30 the year following the draft to be eligible.

“If they don’t get picked up at 17 then they are done,” Murphy said.

“It’s like telling kids if they don’t get their VCE right then they are shot to bits.”

Players like Sam Mitchell, Michael Barlow, Isaac Smith and James Podsiadly have all benefited from their longer journeys into the AFL system, and Murphy believes that with the way the modern game is played, it’s even more important for this system to be considered.

“I think we could look even further than 26, 27 and 28 year-old players,” he said.

“The game is getting even more specific every year about roles that we play. There are so many great football players out there who are in suburban, State or even country leagues. I think it’s definitely worth looking at.”