Herald Sun football writer Jon Ralph says pre-season draft is now close to irrelevant

26 November 2013 7:39 AM

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Herald Sun football writer Jon Ralph says pre-season draft is now close to irrelevant

AS recently as last year the pre-season draft was a vehicle for lashings of suspense and controversy.

There might have been just eight picks, but Kurt Tippett waltzed to Sydney and Fremantle plucked ruckman Jack Hannath while he was literally on the training track with Melbourne.

The weeks of separation between national and pre-season draft meant the Bombers invited Dayle Garlett to train at Windy Hill, an opportunity ruined by the Herald Sun's revelation of his 4am Perth bender.

There could be just one selection, with Sydney's Jed Lamb GWS-bound in the only confirmed move.

And that deal would have clinched a deal in the trade period if the pre-season draft didn't exist.

Free agency and the gap of just five days between national and pre-season drafts means today's draft just isn't necessary any more.

If you are an uncontracted delisted player you can get to the club of your choice any time you want without a draft.

If you are a kid overlooked in the national draft you are more likely to be taken in the rookie draft, with clubs gun-shy about committing the two-year deal the pre-season draft requires.

Mitch Thorpe (Carlton or Fremantle), and Darren Jolly and Maverick Weller (St Kilda) could be taken as rookie picks, but not in the pre-season draft.

The AFL argues legitimately that battling clubs need a mechanism to take players not yet delisted by their clubs but who want to get to a particular location.

Yet Luke Ball just put a price upon his head in the national draft and got from St Kilda to Collingwood with a minimum of fuss.

When a player is determined to move to a rival these days they tend to get there, whether through free agency or the national draft.

There haven't been more than a dozen players taken in any year of the pre-season draft for a decade.

And you have to go back to 2004 (Nick Stevens) to find a legitimate star who used the pre-season draft as an escape mechanism to get to their club of choice.

Bachar Houli, Daniel Bradshaw, Michael Hibberd and Tom Bellchambers were all recent pre-season picks but all of them would have got to their preferred home without the pre-season drafts.

The AFL likes the limelight this time of year, and doesn't mind spreading out its key events.

But why not just hold the national draft on a Thursday night, then the rookie draft the following morning with every club still on the Gold Coast.

The pre-season draft will be over in less than 30 seconds today, and the interest in it will be just as cursory.

Source: heraldsun.com.au

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