The AFL is looking at introducing a short-term loan scheme similar to that used by European soccer teams. The change would see an opportunity for clubs to trade players outside of the normal period mid-season, offering teams the chance to fill vacant positions left open by injuries or other circumstances.
However, according to AFL football manager Steve Hocking, the concept is getting a mixed reception from clubs so far, andÂ AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan, agreed that many organisations were not enthusiastic about the change. McLachlan said that the one thing that he would like to see from the new system would be a shorter period of time for a struggling club to rebuild itself. Currently it can take five to six years for a team to become competitive again and he hoped they could shorten that time in order to keep the competition strong.
The CEO would like to implement a mid-season trade or draft period which would enable teams to bolster their squad. Currently there is only the October trade period and the preseason and rookie drafts which are held in November. The decision to offer clubs extra recruiting opportunities seems inevitable and the pair would like to see it start as soon as possible. There was even a mention of a loan system if a team did not want to trade the player for good.
If a player was able to go out on loan for a season it could be a massive advantage to struggling clubs. Take a team like the Adelaide Crows for example; they have a huge amount of young talent and some will probably not see much game time next season. They could lend some players out to a lower club, and the player would get more game time, essentially helping both sides in the process.
It would certainly make the league more competitive and ensure the games are a more interesting spectacle for the fans. Teams like North Melbourne who are $151.00 to win the flag according to Aussie Rules betting, could utilise loaned players to help while their younger players gain experience. It would surely narrow the gap between them and premiership favourites Adelaide, who are paying just $6.00 to lift the trophy come September.
Some clubs are having a hard time coming to terms with the idea, with many failing to see the merits of a new trade or loan period. If there was more player movement allowed in the premiership it could also open up an opportunity to replace injured players, especially for a team who has lost a player and is competing for the flag.
The other key factor is that it could give teams down the bottom of the ladder a much stronger bargaining position when in talks with bigger clubs. If a team in finals contention needs to fill a hole in their team, the lower side has all the leverage, because the higher team must get the deal done.
The system has been used by soccer teams in Europe and other parts of the world with tremendous results. Teams are duly compensated on both sides and usually the arrangement works out for all parties involved. It looks as though some form of new system is almost inevitable, so let’s hope its transition runs smoothly with the beautiful game we call Aussie Rules.