Future of COVID top ups to challenge WAFL clubs
WAFL clubs should be careful what they wish for because getting their own way might come at a bigger cost than anticipated.
Clubs are understandably unhappy with the AFL’s two new drafts - the supplementary selection period and mid-season draft – which rob them of talented players without providing any means to find replacements.
Marlion Pickett’s story is a beauty: he won a premiership with Richmond on debut for the club but behind the fairy tale was the cost to South Fremantle which had helped the player not only sort out his turbulent life but develop the capacity to star in front of nearly 100,000 people on his first day on centre stage.
The Bulldogs received a few bucks for losing Pickett in the middle of 2019 but could not replace him and ended up getting crunched in a grand final that might have played out differently had the mercurial midfielder still been in their ranks.
WAFL clubs have grumbled privately and publicly that the extra two drafts – which follow the AFL’s national, rookie and pre-season versions and trade period already designed to bring in talent – are surplus to requirements, designed to help AFL clubs overcome poor drafting decisions and damage State leagues.
It is hard to argue with any of those points but it is possible that the unloved current model might be better than the alternative looming on the horizon.
The introduction of Covid contingency top-ups has put an extra 40 WAFL players within sight of AFL selection.
Claremont captain Dec Mountford was named as a West Coast emergency on Sunday while his West Perth counterpart Aaron Black and recent Subiaco recruit Stef Giro trained with the Eagles last week.
While the prospect of any top-up being used is remote – it is unlikely any AFL club would prefer a top-up to one of its own full-time players unless it was to fill a specialist role such as a ruck vacancy – the move might be the first step towards a more formal arrangement in the years to come.
Instead of having the two extra drafts, AFL clubs might prefer to have a stockpile of potential replacements ready to be called up from the State league at short notice.
And the next logical step would be whether the local AFL clubs want to house the top-ups at their own WAFL subsidiaries rather than have them stay at their original clubs.
Don’t rule out a push in this direction.