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Spalding’s AFL draft plan

Perth coach Earl Spalding has suggested a radical idea for the 2020 AFL Draft format.

With this year’s draft set to go ahead despite uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 1995 Carlton premiership player suggested that clubs be allowed one 18-year-old draftee per year.

“The 18 best 18-year olds get the opportunity to go (in to the AFL),” Spalding told Sports Drive on Thursday.

“We are seeing 18-year olds having a really big impact on the game so to rule them out completely I don’t think is the right option. But if every club is only allowed to pick one, they would put a lot more time in to that pick.Then it goes up gradually, so you have another 18 19-year-old draft picks, 20 year olds and above.

Spalding went on to suggest it would have an impact on the state-based competitions and keeping young men and women in the sport.

"The interests of young guys playing state league footy will stay for longer. 19-year-old won’t give up on their dream, which is a by-product of what we have at the moment.”

This year’s draft is likely to be severely compromised, with an under 18’s carnival unlikely due to current travel restrictions.

AFL Chief executive Gillon McLachlan confirmed on Thursday that there would be a draft in November as scheduled, but the format may be adjusted in due course.

Spalding saw merit in players learning other life skills both before and during their AFL journey.

“I think the AFL really have to have a look at how these young men, when they are in their system whether it’s their footy infancy or nine years in, how they can re-engage in society when they come out,” he said.

“The best way is to stay engaged why you’re in the AFL system. Is it one day in a workplace environment I’m not too sure, but they certainly need to be taken out of their bubble more often than they are.”

The WAFL season faces an uncertain start date, currently postponed until June 1st because of the risks associated with coronavirus.

Spalding, who is entering the final year of his senior coaching career with the Demons after a succession plan with Gary Moss was confirmed last December, said the uncertainty created it’s fair deal of challenges for him and his playing group.

“As footballers as creatures of habit who like structure, certainty and being in control it’s certainly a different feeling,” he said.

“It’s not one that too many of us are enjoying at the moment. The mental wellbeing of players will be really tested.”

“I’ve sort of left the players alone, I’ve rung the skipper Corey Yeo a couple of times just to see how he’s going, more from a personal point of view with his business than anything else, just to give them a bit of space and not have them thinking someone’s looking over their shoulder.”

“If we had an end date then it would be a different kettle of fish but I think the guys would be climbing the walls at home. They’ve got to be doing something.”

A teleconference meeting between club coaches, captains and staff is expected on Thursday night, with more clarity expected on the future of the WAFL season.

IMAGE: The West Australian.

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