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Enough of the fearmongering: It's time to embrace free agency


I’m a touch confused today … you’ll be able to help me out. Do we, as a footy community, like player movement or not?

It seems to me we’re mad for it until there’s a move we don’t like and then we cut up rough.

‘Stop, we must stop it, it’s ruining the game. How dare players move clubs to improve their lot. They should only be allowed to go to clubs that are no good. We need to shackle players to the club to which they are conscripted. Now tell me who my club is chasing’.

Here’s the reality of player movement in the AFL.

It is the most restricted, constrained and conservative version of player mobility there is in world sport.

Free Agency is compromised, modified and convoluted. It comes with the bizarre notion of compensation.

In virtually every other sport domestically and internationally a club loses a player and then uses the spare money to gain a player and that stimulates market forces.

They are aggressive and creative and constantly active.

Here’s the truth, revealed again in the reaction to Jeremy Cameron’s decision. We are scared of player movement – it’s the only possible conclusion. We have a half-baked system that limits it, while perversely at the same time we crave it.

Rather than shutting it down, it should be opened right up and clubs that fumble their activities, sign bad contracts and can’t attract their targets should be scrutinised and judged as surely as their on-field performance.

We are so immature in this space the AFL has safeguards in our system to protect clubs from themselves. What nonsense.

Tom Lynch was a foundation player at the Gold Coast Suns.

He gave that club every conceivable opportunity to deliver their end of the bargain.

In the end he had to leave or he was going to waste his career waiting.

You can’t demand he go to another bottom club.

He chose wisely and is going to his second Grand Final with a Premiership medallion already in the drawer.

The problem with the transaction is rival clubs haven’t been able to pry out other Tiger players of worth.

Jeremy Cameron was a foundation Giant.

He went through the hardest of hard years and led the rise of the club, topping the goal kicking every season.

Four straight years they won finals culminating in a Grand Final appearance.

Now, having missed the finals, Cameron evidently agrees with the prevailing view that was the end of the run.

He wants success. You can’t demand he go to a bottom club.

Rival clubs should immediately zero in on the half a dozen Cats who are on the fringes of the team and the salary cap - beginning with Esava Ratugolea and Jordan Clark. That’s how a mature player market works.

They don’t whine that only bottom clubs should be able to get the best players. Both Lynch and Cameron already did that. It’s called the draft.

Enough of the fearmongering.

Chris Judd went from West Coast to Carlton. It didn’t lead to an era of success.

Gary Ablett went from Geelong to the Suns and never played a final.

Lance Franklin went from Hawthorn to Sydney and not only hasn’t won a flag, but couldn’t stop the decline.

The football world didn’t tip off its axis when the franchise players moved clubs.

Enough of the whining.

It’s time for a proper player movement market that doesn’t look to stifle things at every turn.

Empower our clubs to get busy improving their lists and hold them accountable when they’re unable to do so.

The idea that we should stop the movement of players? Come on. Player mobility might be the most fun there is in modern sports.

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