Australian Football League Draft
The Australian Football League Draft is the annual draft of unsigned players, especially new nominations, by Australian rules football teams that participate in the main competition of that sport, the Australian Football League (AFL).
When the competition was known as the Victorian Football League (VFL), the league introduced the first incarnation of a draft system in 1981, where teams had two selections each of interstate players determined by reverse finishing position order.
The draft was introduced as an equalisation strategy in response to the increasing transfer fees and player salaries at the time, which in combination with declining attendances threatened to derail the league. It was also a result of the failure of country zoning, introduced in 1967, which had led to a systematic inequality whereby the clubs with the best zones, like Carlton and Hawthorn, could dominate over clubs with poorer zones like Melbourne.
In 1986, the first of the modern VFL Drafts was held. The draft was run in conjunction to the existing zone system. Players from West Australian Football League and the new West Coast Eagles were excluded from the 1986 draft, with the Eagles able to recruit up to 35 West Australian players with no more than 6 players from any single WAFL club. The other new club for the 1987 VFL season, the Brisbane Bears, received 6 concessionary picks before the other clubs and exclusive access to all Queensland based players.
Since then, the rules associated with priority picks, zone allocations, the father-son rule, mid-year, pre-season and rookie drafts, expansion clubs concessions and trading of players and picks have been frequently changed, but the basic premise of draft being an equalisation measure to assist the poorer performed teams has remained.
In the AFL Draft, clubs receive picks based on the position in which they finish on the ladder during the season. The draft is held each year at the end of November, to allow the draftees to finish their school examinations before being drafted.
From the 2009 draft, players must be at least 18 years of age on 31 December in the year in which they are drafted, so that players who turn 18 during their first months of Year 12 will be able to finish studying without the pressure of AFL. This was increased over the past few years due to concerns about school age players potentially having to leave home to play football interstate.
Priority draft pick rule
The priority draft picks were first introduced in the 1993 AFL Draft as a special assistance rule to aid teams that consistently perform poorly to obtain additional early draft selections.
Under the current rules, in place since the 2012 season, priority draft picks are given out struggling teams at the discretion of the AFL Commission. This replaced a system in which a priority draft pick was automatically given to team whose win-loss record fell below a pre-defined value; this had become controversial, and there were accusations by commentators that teams out of finals contention would tank at the end of the season to gain access to the additional draft picks, although the AFL itself never brought such accusations against any club.
To continue the traditions of association that a family has with a particular club, sons of former players are able to be selected by the same club as their father played with under the Father-Son Rule. For clubs with an established history in the VFL/AFL, the father must have played at least 100 games for the club to be eligible for the father/son rule; clubs with no long term history in the league (such as the Western Australian and South Australian clubs) have different eligibility criteria based on the state leagues.
Under current rules, players eligible under the Father-Son Rule are selected in a bidding system prior to the draft. Firstly, any club in the league may nominate a draft pick with which it intends to take the eligible son; then, if the father's club wishes to draft the son, it must use its next available draft pick, after the highest bidder.
Earlier versions of the Father-Son Rule allowed the sons to be recruited automatically, without need for the draft, or allowed the club to recruit the son using a third round draft pick. The Father-Son Rule itself pre-dates the draft, and prior to the draft it could be used to contravene zoning rules.
Number one draft picks
The number one draft pick is generally given to the last-placed team from the previous season, or to any expansion team in its first draft.
Years where this was not the case are:
- Where the number one pick has been traded, for example when Fremantle traded the number one pick of the 2001 AFL Draft to Hawthorn for Trent Croad; other trades were in 1988, 1990 and 1992.
- In 1996, where West Coast were given the first draft pick in a ballot after the team that finished last, Fitzroy, folded at the end of round 22.
- In 2002, where Carlton lost their priority picks and their first and second round picks for gross salary cap breaches. St. Kilda, who had finished 15th of the 16 teams, received the first draft pick and selected Brendon Goddard.
- In 2007, where Carlton, who had finished 15th of the 16 teams, received the number one draft pick by virtue of the priority pick rules which were in place at the time; the team that finished 16th (last), Richmond, received the second overall pick and also received a priority pick.
Despite the expectations of the number one pick, not all have forged successful VFL/AFL careers. Adam Cooney, the first pick of the 2003 AFL Draft, was the first number one draft pick to be awarded the prestigious Brownlow Medal in 2008. In the same year, Luke Hodge, the number one pick in 2001, won the Norm Smith Medal with Hawthorn.
The following is a list of the number one overall draft picks since the draft's inception in 1981:
Held at the same time as the pre-season draft, the rookie draft is a chance for clubs to recruit players for their Rookie list. Rookies are usually picked as young, developing players and can be elevated from the rookie list during the year, if there is a long term injury or retirement to a senior player in the team. Once the rookie is elevated, he remains that way until the end of the year, where they can be officially upgraded to the senior list, or placed back on the rookie list, or delisted/not offered a new contract. Teams are allowed to have four to six rookies, but the Queensland and NSW teams may have more.
Rookies are also available to be selected from overseas countries and players on the list do not count towards the salary cap. Notable examples are Irish Tommy Walsh of Sydney; Canadian Mike Pyke of Sydney, a former rugby union international; and American Seamus McNamara, a former college basketball player who was rookie listed by Collingwood.
In 2006, the AFL introduced a new scheme where clubs can maintain two international rookies (excluding Irish players) outside of the regular rookie list.
The rule was adjusted in 2010 to group international rookies with players recruited from other sports, and refers to them as Category B rookies. Up to three can be listed in addition to up to six Category A rookies.
- Quayle, Emma (17 November 2006). "When the draft blew in". The Age. Archived from the original on 18 November 2006.
- Foreman, Glen (25 November 2008). "Fremantle Dockers coach Mark Harvey raises concerns over draft". Retrieved 28 November 2008.
- "AFL approves draft, trading rule changes". 30 April 2008. Archived from the original on 10 December 2008. Retrieved 27 November 2008.
- Gill, Katrina; Tanking talk ‘pathetic’, says Demetriou; 20 June 2008
- Father-Son Rule
- Quayle, Emma (25 August 2006). "Clubs to get new overseas talent scheme". The Age.
- "Rookie players".