Northern academies high on AFL Commission agenda
TO BORROW a line from Commandant Lassard from '80s comedy Police Academy, the AFL Commission has some "very, very, very" important decisions to make when it meets tomorrow.
The academies in the northern states, those of Brisbane, Gold Coast, GWS and Sydney, will be high on its agenda, in particular possible changes to both the draft bidding system and the GWS Giants' recruiting zone.
In a plan designed to have the likes of Sydney pay market value for highly-touted kids that have come through the its own academy, the league is set to introduce a complicated system that will see each draft pick allocated a points value.
Well, let's say it's very, very, very complicated - too complicated to outline in any great detail here.
The bottom line, though, is if it were introduced last year, the Swans would have been forced to fork out more than just the No.17 pick for Novocastrian Isaac Heeney, after Melbourne offered its No.2 selection for the onballer.
Both the Swans and Lions have described the push for change as a knee-jerk reaction to the arrival of Heeney, who is clear favourite to win this year's Rising Star Award.
But the Swans will find themselves in a similar predicament this November when another of their own, and another potential top-five pick, Callum Mills, becomes available.
Sydney could find itself not having another selection until the 70s or 80s in the draft.
New Swans football manager Tom Harley and Lions chief executive Greg Swann want an adequate discount when it comes to the points value of draft picks to be used on players they have nurtured, otherwise their clubs say they may reconsider their investment in the academies.
"We've spent the best part of $800,000 over the last couple of years, and if you can't get anything for it, then you might hand it back to the AFL to run it," Swann said.
Should the academies be independently run anyway?
Some - not looking at Collingwood president Eddie McGuire here - have argued it should be open slather on academy players entirely.
Port Adelaide, for instance, has it's own academy too, but saw its most promising young player snapped up last year by the Western Bulldogs, without any bidding.
But, of course, the difference is, the northern clubs aren't in footy heartland and need all the support they can get to field home-grown talent and, in turn, lessen the impact of losing draftees back to Victoria, South Australia and West Australia as we saw with the exodus from Brisbane 18 month ago and may see again with James Aish.
Likewise, Queensland and NSW kids need an incentive to stick with Aussie rules and have a pathway to play the game at the top level in their own state, and not be tempted to switch to rugby league.
The exception to this is the Giants, who, as pointed out in this column last year, have a breeding ground that takes in 'AFL country' towards the Victorian border such as Albury and Wagga - territory that produced Wayne Carey, Paul Kelly and Shane Crawford.
Stay tuned for some very, very, very big announcements.
If the four northern clubs and their academies were up and running 15 years ago, these NSW and Queensland players may have had different "foot- balling homes".
GWS GIANTS: Luke Breust (Temora) Taylor Duryea (Wahgunyah) Isaac Smith (Temora) Tom Hawkins (Finley) Sam Rowe (North Albury) Brent Staker (Broken Hill) Taylor Walker (Broken Hill) Ben McGlynn (Wentworth) Hamish McIntosh (Lavington) Matt Suckling (Wagga) Daniel Cross (Albury)
SYDNEY SWANS: Lenny Hayes (Pennant Hills)
BRISBANE LIONS: Tom Bell (Morningside) Rohan Bail (Mt Gravatt) Brendan Whitecross (Zillmere) Shaun Hampson (Mt Gravatt)
GOLD COAST SUNS: David Armitage (Mackay) Courtenay Dempsey (Cairns) Kurt Tippett (Southport) Nick Riewoldt (Southport) Dayne Beams (Southport) Josh Thomas (Broadbeach) Dayne Zorko (Southport) Daniel Merrett (Surfers)