We call on the AFL to acknowledge and address the player retention issue that has been exacerbated by their introduction of Free Agency.
Homesick draftees leaving clubs isn’t a modern phenomenon. However since the introduction of Free Agency it is now culturally acceptable for draftees coming off their initial contracts to nominate the club of their choosing – or in the instance of Chad Wingard, actively telling GWS he’d leave ASAP if they drafted him.
First round draftees have effectively become the ultimate free agents without any of the restrictions faced by their older counterparts. When it comes to the trade table this typically results in poor compensation for the spurned club, as their preferred club holds all the cards.
The Lions have most keenly felt this cultural shift because they are the only frontier team without any form of retention allowance. Given their list composition (with only 6 Queenslanders on their list) they are effectively forever fighting with one hand behind their back. Leigh Matthews called it many years back when Des Headland went home to Freo: the Lions have effectively become a feeder club, mired to the bottom of the ladder endlessly investing time and effort into developing kids only to see them leave and other clubs reap the rewards.
How YOU can help:
There are a myriad of solutions to the issue, both large and small, but first the disadvantage needs to be acknowledged by the AFL. For that to happen the wider public needs to accept that it is a problem. That’s where you come in. Talk to your friends to raise awareness of the issue. Take to social media. Demand that mainstream media discuss the problem. Ask why the AFL isn’t addressing it. Demand a level playing field. Make yourself heard!