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Draft age needs flexibility: Barnard

East Perth coach Jeremy Barnard says the AFL draft age needs to have some flexibility moving forward, as the AFL ponders the next step for the next generation of young talent in 2020.

Barnard, a three-time premiership captain of the Royals and former premiership coach of the Sandringham Dragons in the Under 18’s TAC Cup competition, told Sports Drive on Monday that some footballers are AFL ready at eighteen years of age, while others are not.

“I think the draft age has got some flexibility in it,” Barnard said.

“Some 18-year-old boys are ready to go, they will go straight in to AFL footy and they will make an impact straight away.”

Barnard coached young AFL stars Ollie Florent (Sydney), Tim Taranto (Greater Western Sydney) and Andrew Brayshaw (Fremantle) in his time at the Dragons in the TAC Cup, all entering the system as readymade AFL stars.

“They were able to step in and play 15-18 games in their first year, and those guys shouldn’t be held back. Another year in the under 19’s or another underage competition isn’t going to do their development any good,” he said.

“Generally, they are first or second round picks. If I had control of it I would say each club gets two 18 year old players to pick, the rest have to come from 19 years and above.”

With the under 18’s carnival likely to be either re-structured or abandoned this year, the draft is likely to be compromised, with the AFL set to reveal it ‘s plans for the draft in the coming weeks.

Barnard said his proposed concept gives young AFL hopefuls a chance to grow in to their football.

“It gives players a chance to develop and expand their game, or their may be some players that weren’t on the radar at 18 and therefore gives them a chance to really shine.” He said.

The 48-year-old saw upside to the idea for the state-based competitions.

“Keeping talent within the talent pathway in state-based football is a great thing, it should be encouraged.” Barnard said.

“I think to be able to continue that real connection that the under 18 competitions have with their league and reserves clubs is a great idea.”

Barnard wasn’t sure if or when the 2020 WAFL season would resume, but threw his support behind a nine game season followed by finals, even if the campaign extended beyond it’s usual September date.

He said the club would need at least a month back in training before the season could commence.

“I would say the WAFL wouldn’t give us any more than four weeks (notice) so if you extrapolate that out a little bit if the government says in July you can play that means we are playing in August,” he said.

“If it’s six weeks that means it the middle of August. Then it pushes everything back. So we are planning for four weeks’ notice with one practice match included.”

“The amount of work we are putting in to our players is reflective of the short preparation time given to get our players up to standard to play WAFL footy.”

A decision on the AFL season is scheduled for Monday week, with decisions on state based football competitions to follow.

IMAGE: PerthNow.


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