The president of the biggest club in the country is complaining about inequality, and he appears to be serious.
In a breathtaking example of self-interest and wilful blindness, Collingwood president Eddie Maguire is reported to be complaining about the "advantage" Queensland and NSW based clubs have through their Academy systems.
For those who don't follow the drafting process closely, the Academy provide a loose system to allow the 4 clubs in non-AFL states to develop homegrown talent. It doesn't create a recruiting zone, as used to exist. Rather, every Academy player is available to all clubs through a pre-draft bidding system. If the club running the Academy wants to secure that player, they have to match the highest bid.
So, this monstrous advantage being afforded to clubs from outside the AFL heartland effectively amounts to an ability to keep homegrown players whilst paying a fair price in terms of draft picks. Since the introduction of the academy system in 2010 a whopping 8 players from Qld and NSW have been taken via the national draft, all of them with speculative late picks. Ironically Collingwood drafted three of those players - the most of any club. The Suns also took three players, all from Brisbane under special start-up concessions. The Lions and GWS have "plundered" just one project player each.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the equation, Eddie's black and white crew has every other advantage possible in this competition. It has so much money it barely blinked an eye at contributing to an AFL "poor tax". It has every off field resource imaginable. If it is worried about its list, it can woo young Victorians like Taylor Adams and Patrick Karnezis away from their NSW/Qld clubs using the "go home" factor. It has a team of recruiters the size of which would put Uncle Sam to shame.
It gets extra money from blockbuster games like Anzac Day and Queens Birthday. Its sponsors get free to air prime time exposure on a near weekly basis. Looking after Collingwood in terms of stadium arrangements meant screwing over smaller Melbourne clubs.
Collingwood complaining about inequality is like Clive Palmer complaining about paying taxes. Even if they have a point (and they don't), the sheer audacity of it has the rest of the population shaking its head at the arrogance and ignorance of these fattest of fat cats.
If equalisation is the goal, then people like Eddie can't be in charge of the system to achieve it. In fact, the AFL should studiously ignore him because he's only driven by one thing - positioning Collingwood at the top of the pile in every respect. He cannot be trusted with the long term interests of the game.
The Academies enjoyed by GWS, Sydney, Brisbane and Gold Coast provide the smallest advantage to those clubs with potentially enormous gains of growing the AFL talent pool outside from its heartland. It is sound policy but it hardly makes a dent into the structural, financial and geographic advantages of Eddie's Collingwood.
In the coming days, The Lion's Roar will release some confronting figures around talent retention that will highlight exactly how hard it is for AFL's frontier clubs. These challenges dwarf the potential benefits of the Academy.
It is tough to watch our club struggle, on and off field. But we cannot allow people like Eddie to keep his foot firmly on our throats. Stay tuned folks as this is the next battleground for Lions supporters.